Abstract Background Tobacco smoking is a growing public health problem in the developing world. There is paucity of data on smoking and predictors of smoking among school-going adolescents in most of sub-Saharan Africa. Hence, the aim of this study is to estimate the prevalence of smoking and its associations among school-going adolescents in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Methods Data from the Global Youth Tobacco Survey (GYTS) 2003 were used to determine smoking prevalence, determinants, attitudes to, and exposure to tobacco advertisements among adolescents. Results Of the 1868 respondents, 4.5% males and 1% females reported being current smokers (p < 0.01). Having smoking friends was strongly associated with smoking after controlling for age, gender, parental smoking status, and perception of risks of smoking (OR = 33; 95% CI [11.6, 95.6]). Male gender and having one or both smoking parents were associated with smoking. Perception that smoking is harmful was negatively associated with being a smoker (odds ratio 0.3; 95% confidence interval, 0.2–0.5) Conclusion Prevalence of smoking among adolescents in Ethiopia is lower than in many other African countries. There is however need to strengthen anti-tobacco messages especially among adolescents.