© 2019 Author(s). Objectives While awareness of cigarette smoking's harmful effects has increased, determinants associated with smoking status remain understudied, including potential racial differences. We aim to examine factors associated with former versus current smoking status and assess whether these associations differed by race. Setting We performed a cross-sectional analysis using the population-based Reasons for Geographic and Racial Differences in Stroke(REGARDS)study. Outcome measures Logistic regression was used to calculate the OR of former smoking status compared with current smoking status with risk factors of interest. Race interactions were tested using multiplicative interaction terms. Results 16 463 participants reported smoking at least 100 cigarettes in their lifetime. Seventy-three per cent (n=12 067) self-reported former-smoker status. Physical activity (reference (REF) <3×/week; >3×/week: OR=1.26, 95% CI 1.11 to 1.43), adherence to Mediterranean diet (REF: low; medium: OR=1.46, 95% CI 1.27 to 1.67; high: OR=2.20, 95% CI 1.84 to 2.64), daily television viewing time (REF: >4 hours; <1 hour: OR=1.32, 95% CI 1.10 to 1.60) and abstinence from alcohol use (REF: heavy; none: OR=1.50, 95% CI 1.18 to 1.91) were associated with former-smoker status. Male sex, higher education and income $35 000-$74 000 (REF: <$20 000) were also associated with former-smoker status. Factors associated with lower odds of reporting former-smoker status were younger age (REF: ≥65 years; 45-64 years: OR=0.34, 95% CI 0.29 to 0.39), black race (OR=0.62, 95% CI 0.53 to 0.72) and single marital status (REF: married status; OR=0.66, 95% CI 0.51 to 0.87), being divorced (OR=0.60, 95% CI 0.50 to 0.72) or widowed (OR=0.70, 95% CI 0.57 to 0.85). Significant interactions were observed between race and alcohol use and dyslipidaemia, such that black participants had higher odds of reporting former-smoker status if they were abstinent from alcohol (OR=2.32, 95% CI 1.47 to 3.68) or had a history of dyslipidaemia (OR=1.31, 95% CI 1.06 to 1.62), whereas these relationships were not statistically significant in white participants. Conclusion Efforts to promote tobacco cessation should consist of targeted behavioural interventions that incorporate racial differences.