Tobacco smoking is a major risk factor for non-communicable diseases such as ischaemic heart disease, stroke, chronic obstructive airways disease and several cancers. There is little data about the prevalence and determinants of smoking among adolescents in southern Africa. This study aimed to determine the prevalence and determinants of cigarette smoking among adolescents in Blantyre City, Malawi. Cross-sectional data were obtained from school-going adolescents in Blantyre in 2001 using the Global Youth Tobacco Survey data collection instrument. Data were analysed to determine prevalence of current and ever cigarette smoking, and predictors of smoking. The prevalence of current smoking and ever smoking were 3.0% and 15.6%, respectively. Predictors of current tobacco smoking included male gender, having friends or parents who smoked, having been exposed to advertisements about tobacco brands on television and having seen a lot of advertisements in newspapers and magazines. School programmes that included being taught about smoking in class and a class discussion on the dangers of tobacco were not associated with reduced current smoking. Intervention programmes aiming to curb tobacco smoking among adolescents should focus on dealing also with parental smoking, peer influence and pay special attention toward male gender. School-based programmes to prevent smoking should be evaluated as some may have little impact in influencing current smoking status.