Recent population studies suggest a role of smoking in the etiology of breast cancer, but few have been conducted among African American women. In a collaborative project of four large studies, we examined associations between smoking measures and breast cancer risk by menopause and hormone receptor status [estrogen receptor-positive (ER+), ER-negative (ER−) and triple-negative (ER−, PR−, HER2−)]. The study included 5791 African American women with breast cancer and 17376 African American controls. Odds ratios (ORs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were calculated in multivariable logistic regression analysis with adjustment for study and risk factors. Results differed by menopausal status. Among postmenopausal women, positive associations were observed for long duration and greater pack-years of smoking: relative to never smoking, fully adjusted ORs were 1.14 (95% CI: 1.03–1.26) for duration ≥20 years and 1.16 (95% CI: 1.01–1.33) for ≥20 pack-years. By contrast, inverse associations were observed among premenopausal women, with ORs of 0.80 (95% CI: 0.68–95) for current smoking and 0.81 (95% CI: 0.69–0.96) for former smoking, without trends by duration. Associations among postmenopausal women were somewhat stronger for ER+ breast cancer. The findings suggest that the relation of cigarette smoking to breast cancer risk in African American women may vary by menopausal status and breast cancer subtype.