On May 23, the American Dental Association announced its support for a new bill that would raise the legal age to buy tobacco products from 18 to 21.
The ADA praised United States Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) for introducing the SB1541, which is named the Tobacco-Free Youth Act.
“Preventing oral cancer and other tobacco-related diseases has been a longstanding priority for the ADA,” wrote ADA President Jeffrey M. Cole and Executive Director Kathleen T. O’Loughlin. “About 9 out of 10 people who die from oral and pharyngeal cancers use tobacco, and the risk of developing these cancers is related to how much (and how often) they use. On average, 40 percent of those with the disease will not survive more than 5 years. Tobacco products are also causally associated with higher rates of gum disease, periodontal disease, mucosal lesions, bone damage, tooth loss, jaw bone loss and more.”
In addition to raising the age, the bill–if passed–would help reduce the number of people who begin smoking before age 21, which represents 95% of current adult smokers, according to the 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.
“Moreover, the bill would apply to the more than 3.6 million middle and high school students who are e-cigarette users,” wrote Cole and O’Loughlin, citing the 2018 National Youth Tobacco Survey. “Research shows that young people who use e-cigarettes are more likely to transition to smoking cigarettes. For that reason, the ADA does not consider these nontraditional tobacco products to be safer (or less harmful) alternatives to smoking.”
In addition to supporting this bill, the ADA is also supporting a United States House of Representatives legislation HR2330, Revising the Youth Tobacco Epidemic Act of 2019.
This legislation addresses the e-cigarette epidemic and calls for the Food and Drug Administration to implement the graphic health warnings for cigarette packages (including an oral cancer image) within 12 months.
If passed, it would raise the minimum age for purchasing non-traditional tobacco products, such as e-cigarettes, to 21, and it would prohibit non-face-to-face sales of all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes and e-cigarette accessories.