Purpose - This study aims to evaluate the prevalence of smoking amongst university students in Brisbane, Australia and associated risk factors. Design/methodology/approach - A cross-sectiol design was used for the study. A sample of 2,414 university students aged 18-30 was examined to estimate the prevalence of tobacco use. Smoking was measured by means of an online survey that inquired about current tobacco use, socio-demographic characteristics, self-rated physical and mental health status and attitudes toward smoking. Findings - The prevalence of tobacco use was 24.9 per cent among male students, 16.6 per cent among female students and 18.8 per cent overall. Low to medium level stress is a strong predictor of smoking in male students. Age and income are significantly related to smoking in female students. For both male and female students, disengagement coping strategies to deal with stressors, feeling not bothered by exposure to smoking, and knowledge of the effect of smoking on health were found to be independently related to smoking. Research limitations/implications - Factors associated with an increased probability of tobacco smoking were: stress in male students, disengagement coping strategies and holding approval attitudes toward smoking, acceptance of exposure to smoking, and poor knowledge of the effect of smoking on health in both male and female students. It is recommended that active coping strategies, such as exercise and social participation, are the most effective ways of ebling students to cope with smoking cessation and other stressors. Practical implications - Future initiatives may need to focus on increasing the environmental supports to assist students to actively cope with life stressors, In addition, the implementation of health education programmes, which are designed to modify behaviour via a change in attitudes and beliefs in university, should be examined. Origility/value - The association between cigarette smoking and morbidity and quality of life among university students is not well documented in Australia. The contribution of this paper is to increase understanding of the association between smoking and life stressors, coping strategies, attitudes and knowledge about the effects of smoking on health in Australia university students. Keywords Cigarettes, Students, Stress, Attitudes, Australia