Objectives. To determine the factors associated with attempting to quit smoking and successfully doing so, among South Africans. Methods. Data from the 1998 South African Demographic and Health Survey (the largest nationally representative survey dataset available to date) were used. We compared the characteristics of those who attempted to quit, with those of the entire population of smokers, and compared successful quitters with those who only attempted to quit. The data analysis included logistic regression analysis. Results. Of those who ever smoked and who smoked ≥100 cigarettes, 68.1% (N=2 223) attempted to quit smoking, but only 14.1% succeeded of those who ever attempted to quit. Those who attempted to quit were significantly more likely to be female, white, ≥55 years old, have tertiary education, believe smoking is harmful, have been dependent on alcohol in the past, live in smoke-free homes, or smoke >20 cigarettes per day. Similar factors were associated with successful quitting, except that race was not a determinant of success, and those with 1 - 7 years' schooling (compared with no education or higher education) were most likely to succeed, while those currently dependent on alcohol were least likely to succeed. Conclusions. Clinical interventions, programmes targeting alcohol-dependent smokers, and policies that will boost the number of smoke-free homes and increase knowledge about the adverse health effects of smoking, may increase the rate of smoking cessation in South Africa.