Asthma is the most common chronic childhood disease in the developed nations, and is a complex disease that has high social and economic costs. Studies of the genetic etiology of asthma offer a way of improving our understanding of its pathogenesis, with the goal of improving preventive strategies, diagnostic tools, and therapies. Considerable effort and expense have been expended in attempts to detect specific polymorphisms in genetic loci contributing to asthma susceptibility. Concomitantly, the technology for detecting single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) has undergone rapid development, extensive catalogues of SNPs across the genome have been constructed, and SNPs have been increasingly used as a method of investigating the genetic etiology of complex human diseases. This paper reviews both current and potential future contributions of SNPs to our understanding of asthma pathophysiology.