Selected antecedents of smoking initiation among 1,513 eighth grade students in an urban tobacco producing county of North Carolina were studied using the Tobacco Cigarette Smoking Questionnaire and the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale. Fifteen percent of students reported currently smoking, and 17.2% indicated an intention to smoke upon graduation from high school. Self-esteem and parental smoking behavior related significantly to adolescents' smoking behavior and future intention to smoke. Significantly more females intended to smoke and had lower self-esteem than males. Family involvement in the tobacco industry related significantly to adolescents' intention to smoke but not their smoking behavior. Overall, low self-esteem and parental smoking models may be important to developing the smoking habit among young adolescents. Prevention of smoking initiation should involve promotion of children's self-esteem and avoidance of parental smoking modeling prior to the eighth grade.