This study reports comprehensive two-dimensional gas chromatography hyphenated to time-of-flight mass spectrometry detection (GC x GC/TOFMS) for characterisation and identification of components generated by four different types of powdered incense headspace (H/S) and incense smoke. GC x GC/TOFMS allowed simultaneous separation and identification of compounds emitted into the atmosphere as a result of combustion of incense powder. The smoke stream comprised compounds originating from the incense powder, and combustion products such as saturated and unsaturated hydrocarbons, essential oil type compounds, nitromusks, fatty acid methyl esters (FAMEs), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs, which possibly include oxygenated and nitrated PAH), N-heterocyclics, pyrans and furans, which were detected and tentatively identified by GC x GC/TOFMS. GC x GC-electron capture detector/nitrogen phosphorous detector (ECD/NPD) potentially offers the prospect of providing selective chemical compositional information of incense powder and smoke, such as nitrogen-containing (N-containing) and halogenated compounds. Results of GCxGC-ECD/NPD showed that both incense powder and smoke generated emission of N-containing and halogenated compounds. A significant number of halogenated and N-containing compounds were emitted during the incomplete combustion of incense. However, one further objective of this paper is to demonstrate the capacity of comprehensive two-dimensional gas chromatography coupled to specific and/or selective detectors such as those used in this study (GC x GC-ECD/NPD) for the detection of particular classes of compounds such as N-containing and halogenated compounds at trace level concentrations in complex smoke samples. (C) 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.