Smoking has deleterious effects on osteoporosis and periodontitis both characterized by bone loss. Smoking also interferes with the protective effect that hormone replacement therapy (HRT) has on bone loss. Our study investigated two mechanisms by which smoking may affect bone metabolism: nicotine-induced proliferation and nicotine-induced cytokine secretion in osteoblasts. Two osteoblastic cell models were used: mouse osteoblasts derived from mouse calvaria and human osteoblasts. Thymidine incorporation and immunoassays were used to evaluate proliferation, interleukin 6 (IL-6) and tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-alpha) secretion. Parametric and nonparametric statistical analyses were used for comparisons. The results showed that nicotine induced stimulation and inhibition of proliferation in both osteoblastic cell models. In human osteoblasts, the proliferative and inhibitory effects were also donor dependent. Il-6 secretion showed different patterns in mouse and human osteoblasts. In mouse osteoblasts, nicotine significantly increased IL-6 secretion and estradiol significantly inhibited the nicotine-induced IL-6 release. In human osteoblasts, cells derived from one subject did not respond to nicotine. However, in the second sample, nicotine increased secretion of Il-6 but estradiol did not oppose this effect. In human osteoblasts, nicotine also induced an increase in the TNF-alpha secretion and estradiol opposed this increase. These results suggest that nicotine affects bone metabolism by modulating proliferation, and Il-6 and TNF-alpha secretion. These studies provide a possible explanation for differences in bone loss among subjects who smoke and offer a possible mechanism for the oppositional effect of smoking on HRT in subjects with bone loss.