Abstract : ABSTRACT: BACKGROUND: Current smoking is associated with type 2 diabetes mellitus and impaired glucose tolerance but its association with the metabolic syndrome (metS), particularly with sufficiently sampled African American representation, has not been clearly established. OBJECTIVE: To assess whether a) metS is associated with smoking; b) any increased risk of metS among smokers is independent of body mass index (BMI) compared with non-smokers; c) smoking status is differentially associated with the metS and its components across different ethnic groups. METHODS: Cross sectional analysis of the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA) a community population-based sample free of cardiovascular disease. RESULTS: Current smokers (N=769) had higher risk of metS (odds ratio [OR, 95 % confidence interval]: 1.4, 1.1-1.7) versus never (reference, N=2981) and former smokers (1.0, 0.8-1.1, N=2163) and for metS components: high waist circumference (WC) (OR:1.9, 1.2-2.1), low high density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) (1.5, 1.3-1.8), elevated plasma triglycerides (TG) (OR:1.4, 1.2-1.7) as well as high C-reactive protein (CRP, an inflammatory marker) concentration (OR: 1.6,1.3-2.0) compared to never and former smokers after adjustment for BMI. A smoking status by ethnicity interaction occurred such that African American current and former smokers had greater likelihood of low HDL-C than White counterparts. CONCLUSIONS: This study found that smoking is associated with the metS and despite the lower BMI of current smokers the prevalence of low HDL-C, elevated TG and CRP is higher among them than among non-smokers. African American individuals generally have higher HDL-C than Whites but smoking wipes out this advantage.