The purpose of this investigation was to explore gender and ethnic differences in the prevalence of risk factors for smoking onset. As part of a larger study, 6,967 seventh graders completed a questionnaire measuring variables shown in previous research to predict cigarette smoking. The results indicated that at this age level, risk factors for smoking initiation are less prevalent among African Americans than European American youth and among girls relative to boys. These findings are consistent with the lower incidence of smoking among African Americans and girls at this young age. Future research should examine changes in risk factors over time to determine whether such changes accompany the rising smoking rate typically observed among girls and African Americans later in adolescence.