Relapse to smoking after initial abstinence is a major clinical challenge with significant public health consequences. At the brain and behavioral level, those who relapse to tobacco smoking have both greater cue-reactivity and lower inhibitory control than those who remain abstinent. Little is known about neural activation during inhibitory control tasks in the presence of drug-related cues. In the current study, tobacco smokers (SMK; n = 22) and non-smoking controls (CON; n = 19) completed a Go/NoGo task involving smoking cues during a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scan. Following the scan session, smokers were required to quit smoking, and maintenance of abstinence was evaluated as part of a 12-week smoking cessation trial. We evaluated pre-cessation brain activity during NoGo trials in smokers who were versus were not able to quit smoking. We then compared fMRI and inhibitory control measures between smokers and non-smokers. We did not find differences between SMK and CON in performance or activation to smoking or neutral cues. However, compared to SMK who relapsed, SMK who attained biochemically-validated abstinence at the end of the smoking cessation trial had greater neural activation in the anterior insula during NoGo trials specifically with smoking-related cues. Results indicate that within SMK, decreased inhibitory control activation during direct exposure to drug-related stimuli may be a marker of difficulty quitting and relapse vulnerability.