This study examined the detailed time course of desire to smoke self-reports during brief periods of tobacco smoking deprivation to determine how these reports are related to amount and spacing of scheduled smoking. During four independent sessions, subjects (n=10) smoked cigarettes at 30-, 60-, or 120-min intervals, or only smoked a single cigarette at the end of the 6-h session. At 15-min intervals, subjects answered four analog scale questions measuring their desire to smoke which were averaged to produce a single score. Mean desire to smoke scores were 28, 43, 59 and 71 in the 30-, 60-, 120- and 360-min cigarette spacing conditions, respectively, indicating an orderly relationship with amount of scheduled smoking. Patterns of change were similar across repeated observations and during several different deprivation intervals. Desire to smoke ratings, although temporarily suppressed by smoking, began rising within minutes of smoking and increased to near maximum levels (about 80 on a 100-point scale) after fewer than 3 h of abstinence. The observed rapid escalation in desire to smoke ratings during brief periods of abstinence is consistent with cigarette craving being reported by regular smokers who are not trying to quit. Further, if cravings can be accepted as a feature of tobacco withdrawal, the results support the view that avoidance of withdrawal is an important factor that maintains regular cigarette smoking.