A comparison of learner nurses and student teachers indicated that occupational differences in smoking prevalence were established prior to entry. However, learner nurses experienced higher stress for the greater part of their first year of training and this was one factor contributing to the consolidation of smoking among them. In general, smoking was seen as a way of dealing with negative feelings and although smokers did not experience greater stress than non-smokers, the former were more likely to feel anger. Lower levels of perceived stress were associated with moves to lesser smoking, suggesting that stress prevents smoking being given up. Some non-smokers were vulnerable in that they both experienced higher stress and saw smoking as a solution. The use of maladaptive intrapsychic coping techniques and the absence of social support outside nursing were both associated with movements to greater smoking.