BACKGROUND:In diabetes mellitus, cigarette smoking is associated with increased risk of cardiovascular mortality and microvascular complications. We evaluated cigarette smoking in people with diabetes mellitus in a socio-economically deprived area. METHODS:We carried out a cross-sectional survey of people registered with diabetes mellitus at 29 general practices in inner London. Responses were analysed for 1,899 (64%) respondents out of 2,983 eligible. RESULTS:There were 1,899 respondents of whom 968 (51%) had never smoked, 296 (16%) were current smokers and 582 (31%) were ex-smokers. Smoking was more frequent in white Europeans (men 22%, women 20%), than in African Caribbeans (men 15%, women 10%) or Africans (men 8%, women 2%). Smoking prevalence decreased with age. Smokers were more likely to be living in rented accommodation (odds ratio, OR 2.02, 95% confidence interval 1.48 to 2.74). After adjusting for confounding, current smokers had lower SF-36 scores than subjects who had never smoked (mean difference in physical functioning score -5.6, 95% confidence interval -10.0 to -1.2; general health -6.1, -9.7 to -2.5). Current smokers were less likely to have attended a hospital diabetic clinic in the last year (OR 0.59, 0.44 to 0.79), and their hypertension was less likely to be treated (OR 0.47, 0.30 to 0.74). CONCLUSIONS:Compared with non-smokers, smokers had lower socio-economic status and worse health status, but were less likely to be referred to hospital or treated for their hypertension. People with diabetes who smoke can be regarded as a vulnerable group who need more intensive support and treatment.