Background We aimed to identify factors associated with smoking among immigrants. In particular, we investigated the relationship between acculturation and smoking, taking into consideration the stage of the ‘smoking epidemic’ in the countries of origin and host countries of the immigrants. Methods We searched PubMed for peer-reviewed quantitative studies. Studies were included if they focused on smoking among adult immigrants (foreign-born) from non-western countries now residing in the USA, Canada, Ireland, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, the UK, and Australia. Studies were excluded if, among others, a distinction between immigrants and their (native-born) offspring was not made. Results We retrieved 27 studies published between 1998 and 2013. 21 of the 27 studies focused on acculturation (using bidimensional multi-item scales particularly designed for the immigrant group under study and/or proxy measures such as language proficiency or length of stay in host country) and 16 of those found clear differences between men and women: whereas more acculturated women were more likely to smoke than less acculturated women, the contrary was observed among men. Conclusions Immigrants’ countries of origin and host countries have reached different stages of the ‘smoking epidemic’ where, in addition, smoking among women lags behind that in men. Immigrants might ‘move’ between the stages as (I) the (non-western) countries of origin tend to be in the early phase, (II) the (western) host countries more in the advanced phase of the epidemic and (III) the arrival in the host countries initiates the acculturation process. This could explain the ‘imported’ high (men)/low (women) prevalence among less acculturated immigrants. The low (men)/high (women) prevalence among more acculturated immigrants indicates an adaptation towards the social norms of the host countries with ongoing acculturation.