This study examines temporal differences in cigarette smoking initiation and cessation among male and female birth cohorts of 1926–1970 born in Germany. Based on the German Federal Health Survey 1998 the sample is divided into a series of 5-year sex–birth cohorts, beginning with those born between 1926 and 1930 and extending to those born between 1966 and 1970. The final data file consists of a sample of 5110 people. Ever-smoking prevalence among men varies from 60 to 70% between the birth cohorts, while in women born 1926–1930 ever-smoking increases from 20 to about 50% in those born 1966–1970. A reduction of the median age at starting smoking also takes place between the cohorts. With 8.5 years this decrease is more incisive among women, compared with a drop of 2 years among men. Regarding cessation patterns the analysis shows a shift towards a shorter duration of smoking with succeeding birth cohorts, again this shift is more incisive in women. But even in the youngest cohort still more than 50% of ever-smokers smoke regularly for more than 25 years. In Germany tobacco-control activities are required in order to take antismoking actions that especially prevent youth from starting to smoke and that support smokers in quitting.