Smoking is a risk factor for complications during and after surgery, but most smokers are unable to quit before elective surgery. We tested the efficacy of bupropion in improving smoking cessation rates in this setting by enrolling 47 patients from the elective surgery waiting list in a double-blind randomised controlled trial. Patients receiving bupropion had a lower daily cigarette consumption at the time of hospital admission, median (IQR) cigarettes per day: 6 (2-7) vs. 15 (9-20), p = 0.046. They also had a reduction in end-expired carbon monoxide (P = 0.004), a known contaminant of cigarette smoke, and increased arterial oxygen saturation on pulse oximetry (p = 0.011). They were more likely to have stopped smoking at the 3-week visit (p = 0.036), but not at the 6-week visit (p = 0.25) or at the time of hospital admission for surgery (p > 0.99). This study found that smokers waiting for elective surgery are more likely to reduce or stop smoking when treated with bupropion.