BACKGROUND: Current research on the continuum of smoking initiation has largely focused on phases of progressing frequency of smoking. To gain more insight into reasons some adolescents do, and others do not, proceed to advanced levels of smoking behavior, a continuum in which two categories of ex-smoking are proposed is examined. METHODS: Standardized scores on psychosocial predictors of smoking among adolescent nonsmoking deciders and quitters were compared cross-sectionally with those of the categories of never smokers, triers, experimenters, and regular smokers (n = 23,317). RESULTS: Never smokers, triers, experimenters, and regular smokers had significantly different characteristics with regard to psychosocial predictors of smoking (P < 0.01), with scores of never smokers indicating that they were least at risk of smoking in the future and those of regular smokers indicating that they were most at risk. Scores of nonsmoking deciders showed that they were less at risk than triers and experimenters and more at risk than never smokers. Quitters seemed to have less risky psychosocial characteristics than experimenters and more risky characteristics than nonsmoking deciders. CONCLUSIONS: Studying transitions of smoking behavior based on six possible phases (i.e., never smoking, nonsmoking deciding, trying, experimenting, regular smoking, and quitting) might lead to more valid insights into predictors of adolescent smoking behavior.