The present study sought to determine whether risk factors for cigarette smoking onset have a stronger influence on Black versus White children, and whether those patterns differ for nonsmokers versus experimental smokers. As part of a larger study, 5,213 seventh graders were surveyed annually for 5 years. The survey instrument assessed cigarette smoking, along with a variety of background variables thought to influence smoking. Results indicated that rebelliousness predicted smoking onset for Black nonsmokers; peer modeling was more influential for Whites. For both ethnicities, socially isolated children were at increased risk. The variables that predicted the shift from experimental to regular smoking were for the most part different from those that predicted smoking onset. Specifically, youths who lived with smokers, viewed smoking as a means to a goal, and experienced few adverse physiological effects of smoking were more likely to increase their cigarette consumption. Overall, we found that, contrary to previous research, risk factors for smoking differed across ethnicity. Further, smoking onset appears to be shaped by forces different from those that accelerate consumption.