Abstract Objective To assess change between 1996 and 2006 in smoking prevalence, cigarette consumption, quit attempts, motivation to quit and advice received from physicians in Geneva, Switzerland. Methods Postal surveys in cross-sectional, representative samples of the general population of Geneva in 1996 and 2006. Results There were 742 participants in 1996 (response rate 75%) and 1487 in 2006 (response rate 76%). Smoking prevalence remained stable between 1996 (28.0%, 95% confidence interval: 24.7 to 31.3%) and 2006 (26.5%, 24.3 to 28.7%, p = 0.46). Among smokers, cigarette consumption fell from 15 to 13 cig./day between 1996 and 2006 ( p = 0.003). However, tobacco dependence, as measured by the Heaviness of Smoking Index, remained stable (mean = 1.9 vs. 1.7, p = 0.18). The proportion of smokers who made a 24-hour quit attempt in the previous year remained stable (29.2% in 1996, 32.1% in 2006, p = 0.52), but more smokers reported that they intended to quit in the next 6 months in 2006 (39.6%) than in 1996 (29.1%, p = 0.045). The association between smoking prevalence and income was stronger in 2006 (chi 2 = 53.7, p < 0.001) than in 1996 (chi 2 = 10.9, p = 0.012). In 2006 (no change since 1996), few smokers reported that, during their last medical visit, their physician told them to quit smoking (27.3%) or offered them help to quit (13.3%). Conclusions Over these 10 years, smoking prevalence, nicotine dependence levels and the frequency of quit attempts remained stable, but smokers' motivation to quit increased. We observed a growing social gap in smoking prevalence and cigarette consumption. Smoking cessation advice was seldom received during medical visits.