At their earliest stage, pathologic lesions of the laryngeal epithelium are macroscopically invisible. Ideally, these lesions should be detected before their clinical manifestations appear so that prompt management can be initiated. However, most diagnostic modalities are unable to detect early premalignant lesions. We conducted a retrospective study of the use of contact endoscopy in analyzing the vocal fold mucosal epithelium in adults who had been operated on at our hospital under general anesthesia for various nonlaryngeal diseases. After we identified 71 such patients who were smokers, we chose an almost equal number of nonsmokers (n = 70) for comparison purposes. In all, our study population was made up of 141 patients-51 men and 90 women, aged 21 to 78 years (mean: 52). All patients had normal findings on preoperative laryngeal endoscopy. Our goal was to determine if the routine use of this diagnostic modality is justified in selected cases. Contact endoscopy identified dysplastic vocal fold lesions in 4 patients and chronic laryngitis in 3; all 7 of these patients were smokers. Since early laryngeal lesions are not macroscopically evident, early detection of these changes by other means is associated with a better prognosis and easier management. Our study demonstrates that the use of contact endoscopy during general anesthesia as a standard diagnostic method in long-time cigarette smokers is fully justified.