Background. This study examined the relationship between community-level and school-level socioeconomic status indicators and current cigarette smoking among urban adolescents, and examined whether the socioeconomic status-cigarette smoking relationship was similar for African Americans and Whites. Methods. Participants were 3,813 seventh-graders recruited in a large school system in the United States. Independent variables included median income and mean education within zip codes of participants' residence, percentage of participants receiving lunch at reduced or no cost at school level, and ethnicity. The dependent variable was current smoking status (never smoked vs smoking one or more cigarettes per month). Results. Whites were significantly more likely than African Americans to smoke cigarettes. There was a main effect of education and lunch at reduced or no cost on cigarette smoking. Mean education by zip code was inversely associated with cigarette smoking, and lunch at reduced or no cost was directly associated with cigarette smoking. There was a significant interaction between income and ethnicity. Median income by zip code was directly associated with cigarette smoking among African Americans. Conclusions. Our findings suggest that smoking prevention efforts in this population should take both socioeconomic status and ethnicity into account. © 2001 American Health Foundation and Elsevier Science (USA).