Background Studies showed that long-standing smokers have stiffer arteries at rest. However, the effect of smoking on the ability of the vascular system to respond to increased demands (physical stress) has not been studied. The purpose of this study was to estimate the effect of smoking on arterial stiffness and subendocardial viability ratio, at rest and after acute exercise in young healthy individuals. Methods/Results Healthy light smokers (n = 24, pack-years = 2.9) and non-smokers (n = 53) underwent pulse wave analysis and carotid-femoral pulse wave velocity measurements at rest, and 2, 5, 10, and 15 minutes following an exercise test to exhaustion. Smokers were tested, 1) after 12h abstinence from smoking (chronic condition) and 2) immediately after smoking one cigarette (acute condition). At rest, chronic smokers had higher augmentation index and lower aortic pulse pressure than non-smokers, while subendocardial viability ratio was not significantly different. Acute smoking increased resting augmentation index and decreased subendocardial viability ratio compared with non-smokers, and decreased subendocardial viability ratio compared with the chronic condition. After exercise, subendocardial viability ratio was lower, and augmentation index and aortic pulse pressure were higher in non-smokers than smokers in the chronic and acute conditions. cfPWV rate of recovery of was greater in non-smokers than chronic smokers after exercise. Non-smokers were also able to achieve higher workloads than smokers in both conditions. Conclusion Chronic and acute smoking appears to diminish the vascular response to physical stress. This can be seen as an impaired ‘vascular reserve’ or a blunted ability of the blood vessels to accommodate the changes required to achieve higher workloads. These changes were noted before changes in arterial stiffness or subendocardial viability ratio occurred at rest. Even light smoking in young healthy individuals appears to have harmful effects on vascular function, affecting the ability of the vascular bed to respond to increased demands.