The purpose of this study was to investigate racial and sex differences on the risk factors for smoking initiation and daily smoking among juvenile justice adolescents, a population that is traditionally ignored in school-based epidemiological samples. This study used archival data collected by juvenile justice authorities for a large sample of juvenile justice adolescents (N = 4381), examining interaction terms to determine race and sex differences for risk factors. About 70% of juvenile justice adolescents reported ever having smoked cigarettes while almost half reported daily smoking. Overall predictors of ever and daily smoking included older age, being female, White, use of alcohol, cannabis, and cocaine in the past year, affiliation with smoking peers, not living with at least one parent, and a diagnosis of ADHD. While differences were seen between individual predictor models for both race and sex, the interaction terms did not add significantly to the overall model. These important racial and gender differences in this study suggest that tailored prevention messages and interventions may be needed to be most effective with adolescents in the juvenile justice system. While this study provides a basic foundation of risk factors for smoking among juvenile justice adolescents, future research is needed to assess the efficacy of treatment and prevention interventions with this high risk group of adolescent smokers. © 2007 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.