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We hypothesize that cigarette smoking might predispose patients to the development of shoulder stiffness as a postoperative complication of arthroscopic rotator cuff repair within the first 3 months of operative intervention. To our knowledge this association has not been evaluated before. The study was a prospective study undertaken on a consecutive cohort of 80 patients who underwent arthroscopic rotator cuff repair at a single center. Measurements of passive range of motion, patient-ranked pain and stiffness levels, as well as strength were collected preoperatively and at 1, 6, and 12 weeks postoperatively. Patient smoking habits were assessed at the time of their 6-week postoperative review. Correlation analysis demonstrated a relationship between smoking status and patient-ranked shoulder stiffness 1 week following arthroscopic rotator cuff repair (r=0.26, P=0.046). Smoking status also correlated with the change in shoulder stiffness experienced by smokers at 1 week (r=0.37, P=0.03) and was found to be associated with a reduced restoration of external rotation range of motion between 6 and 12 weeks following arthroscopic intervention (r=−0.32, P=0.014). Relationships exist between cigarette smoking, patient reported shoulder stiffness and an objective loss of range of motion within 12 weeks of arthroscopic rotator cuff repair.