BACKGROUND: Prenatal maternal smoking and prematurity independently affect wheezing and asthma in childhood. OBJECTIVE: We sought to evaluate the interactive effects of maternal smoking and prematurity upon the development of early childhood wheezing. METHODS: We evaluated 1,448 children with smoke exposure data from a prospective urban birth cohort in Boston. Maternal antenatal and postnatal exposure was determined from standardized questionnaires. Gestational age was assessed by the first day of the last menstrual period and early prenatal ultrasound (preterm < 37 weeks gestation). Wheezing episodes were determined from medical record extraction of well and ill/unscheduled visits. The primary outcome was recurrent wheezing, defined as >/= 4 episodes of physician documented wheezing. Logistic regression models and zero inflated negative binomial regression (for number of episodes of wheeze) assessed the independent and joint association of prematurity and maternal antenatal smoking on recurrent wheeze, controlling for relevant covariates. RESULTS: In the cohort, 90 (6%) children had recurrent wheezing, 147 (10%) were exposed to in utero maternal smoke and 419 (29%) were premature. Prematurity (odds ratio [OR] 2.0; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.3-3.1) was associated with an increased risk of recurrent wheezing, but in utero maternal smoking was not (OR 1.1, 95% CI 0.5-2.4). Jointly, maternal smoke exposure and prematurity caused an increased risk of recurrent wheezing (OR 3.8, 95% CI 1.8-8.0). There was an interaction between prematurity and maternal smoking upon episodes of wheezing (P = 0.049). CONCLUSIONS: We demonstrated an interaction between maternal smoking during pregnancy and prematurity on childhood wheezing in this urban, multiethnic birth cohort. Pediatr Pulmonol. 2012; 47:666-673. (c) 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.