Tobacco exposure during development leads to neurobehavioral dysfunction in children, even when exposure is limited to secondhand smoke. We have previously shown in rats that developmental exposure to tobacco smoke extract (TSE), at levels mimicking secondhand smoke, starting preconception and extending throughout gestation, evoked subsequent locomotor hyperactivity and cognitive impairment. These effects were greater than those caused by equivalent exposures to nicotine alone, implying that other agents in tobacco smoke contributed to the adverse behavioral effects. In the present study, we examined the critical developmental windows of vulnerability for these effects, restricting TSE administration (0.2 mg/kg/day nicotine equivalent, or DMSO vehicle, delivered by subcutaneously-implanted pumps) to three distinct 10 day periods: the 10 days preceding mating, the first 10 days of gestation (early gestation), or the second 10 days of gestation (late gestation). The principal behavioral effects revealed a critical developmental window of vulnerability, as well as sex selectivity. Late gestational TSE exposure significantly increased errors in the initial training on the radial-arm maze in female offspring, whereas no effects were seen in males exposed during late gestation, or with either sex in the other exposure windows. In attentional testing with the visual signal detection test, male offspring exposed to TSE during early or late gestation showed hypervigilance during low-motivating conditions. These results demonstrate that gestational TSE exposure causes persistent behavioral effects that are dependent on the developmental window in which exposure occurs. The fact that effects were seen at TSE levels modeling secondhand smoke, emphasizes the need for decreasing involuntary tobacco smoke exposure, particularly during pregnancy.