This paper examines the relative contributions of compositional and contextual effects on the one hand, and behavioural and material factors on the other, to help explain smoking initiation. We present results from a cross-sectional, multi-level analysis linking data from pre-adolescents, their households and their neighbourhoods across Quebec, Canada. Results show a significant geographical area variation in youth smoking initiation. The variation is explained not only by individual characteristics (parents' smoking status, parents" education and pre-adolescents' age), but also by aspects of the social structure at the neighbourhood level. When both the individual level and territory level predictors are entered in the model, only 2.66% of the between-territory variance in smoking initiation remain unexplained.