Smoking cessation is critical to reduce the health disparate status of African American (AA) women, however studies reveal that AA women are less likely to quit. Socio-culturally congruent research is needed that provides explanations as to why AA women choose to smoke in order to develop appropriate cessation interventions for this population. The purpose of the study was to determine whether socio-cultural stress and coping factors influence smoking among AA women. One hundred ninety-eight AA females completed the John Henry Scale for Active Coping, the Perceived Stress Scale, the Index of Race-Related Stress, and an investigator-developed demographic and smoking survey. Significant associations between frequency of race-related stress events and perceived general stress (p < 0.001) and between perceived general stress and smoking status were found (p < 0.001). In addition, the socio-demographic variables of marital status, income, and education were found to moderate the association between general stress and smoking status. Specifically, the association between general stress and smoking status was stronger for women who were less educated, had lower incomes, and were single. Stress is a contributor to smoking among AA women and particular socio-cultural factors may account for stress and should be addressed in future smoking intervention programs for AA women. Copyright © 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.