Abstract The ozone (O 3) phytotoxicity in rural areas of Catalonia (NE Spain) and the biomonitoring capacity of Bel-W3 tobacco ( Nicotiana tabacum) cultivars were assessed by determining the percentage of leaf area injured by ozone in plants of this cultivar exposed from spring to autumn since 1995–1999. The study was conducted simultaneously on nine field sites where ground level ozone concentrations and meteorological parameters were continuously monitored. Geographical, seasonal and annual variations of ozone damage rate and their links with meteorological conditions were studied. Ozone concentrations and leaf damage increased at the end of spring and the beginning of summer. Coastal sites generally presented higher O 3 concentrations than inland and mountain sites. These mountain sites were the most sensitive ones to ozone toxicity. The ozone concentrations correlated well with ozone injury. However, at this local scale the ozone levels did not fully account for all the observed injury (only 11%). The response of tobacco plants to ozone concentrations and therefore its biomonitoring capacity depended also on different environmental conditions, mainly those linked to stomatal behaviour such as vapour pressure deficit. The categorization of leaf damage in 10% intervals and its averaging throughout the whole study period and the whole region, strongly improved (99% of variance accounted) the relationship with ozone concentrations expressed as AOT20 (accumulated over a cut-off of 20 ppb v). N. tabacum cultivar Bel-W3 is thus a very good biomonitor of ozone concentrations in the long term at the regional scale. Taking into account the phytotoxical response of this sensitive tobacco cultivar, we propose the 1.28 ppm v h biweekly AOT40 (with a solar radiation threshold of 50 W m −2) as a damage threshold level for sensitive species.