Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer dearth. Cigarette smoking is the strongest risk factor for developing lung cancer, which is conceivably initiated by proliferation. Here, we show that low concentration of aqueous extract of cigarette smoke (AECS) causes excessive proliferation of human lung epithelial cells (A549) without any apoptotic cell death. The causative factor responsible for AECS-induced proliferation has been identified as p-benzoquinone (p-BQ). Coimmunoprecipitation and immunoblot experiments indicate that p-BQ binds with epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR). However, in contrast to EGF, it causes aberrant phosphorylation of EGFR that lacks c-Cbl-mediated ubiquitination and degradation resulting in persistent activation of EGFR. This is followed by activation of Hras + Kras and the downstream survival and proliferative signaling molecules Akt and ERK1/2, as well as the nuclear transcription factors c-Myc and c-Fos. Vitamin C and/or antibody to p-BQ prevents AECS/p-BQ-induced proliferation of lung cells apparently by inactivating p-BQ and thereby preventing activation of EGFR and the downstream signaling molecules. The results suggest that vitamin C and/or antibody to p-BQ may provide a novel intervention for preventing initiation of lung cancer in smokers. Copyright 2011 Neekkan Dey et al.