Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic disabling inflammatory joint disease of unknown aetiology. Genetic and environmental factors are implicated in its pathogenesis. We performed a literature search on MEDLINE, the Cochrane database and EMBASE on the interaction between smoking and RA. It is concluded that previous and current smoking constitute a risk factor for RA development. Smoking acts synergistically with other RA risk factors, including IgM-rheumatoid factor, anti-CCP and shared epitopes. The effect of smoking on the course of RA has not been described in sufficient detail.