In the present paper, we found that human fetal ovaries (at ~16 weeks) express the transcripts for several subunits of the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR). Exposure to the drug in vitro resulted in the marked increase of apoptosis in the ovaries in a time and dose-dependent manner. Evidence that adverse nicotine effects are potentially due to an increased level of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and consequent DNA damage, both in the ovarian somatic cells and germ cells, are reported. After 4 days of culture, exposure to 1 mM and 10 mM nicotine caused a 50% and 75% decrease, respectively, in the number of oogonia/oocytes present in the fetal ovaries. These results represent the first indication that nicotine may directly cause apoptosis in cells of the fetal human ovary and may lead to a reduction of the ovarian reserve oocytes and consequent precocious menopause in mothers smoking during pregnancy.