Whilst the inhaled route is the first line administration method in the management of asthma, it is well documented that patients can have problems adopting the correct inhaler technique and thus receiving adequate medication. This applies equally to metered dose inhalers and dry powder inhalers and leads to poor disease control and increased healthcare costs. Reviews have highlighted these problems and the recent European Consensus Statement developed a call to action to seek solutions. This review takes forward the challenge of inhaler competence by highlighting the issues and suggesting potential solutions to these problems. The opportunity for technological innovation and educational interventions to reduce errors is highlighted, as well as the specific challenges faced by children. This review is intended as a policy document, as most issues faced by patients have not changed for half a century, and this situation should not be allowed to continue any longer. Future direction with respect to research, policy needs and practice, together with education requirements in inhaler technique are described. Copyright © 2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.