The American Dental Association (ADA) recently announced its support for a new bill that would raise the legal age to purchase tobacco products from 18 to 21.

The ADA praised lawmakers for introducing Senate Bill 1541, the Tobacco-Free Youth Act. “Preventing oral cancer and other tobacco-related diseases has been a longstanding priority for the ADA,” said ADA President Jeffrey M. Cole and Executive Director Kathleen T. O’Loughlin.

Did You Know?

Nearly 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% of those with the disease will not survive more than five years.

Tobacco products are also linked with higher rates of gum disease, periodontal disease, mucosal lesions, bone damage, tooth loss, jaw bone loss and more.

In a letter to lawmakers, the ADA noted the legislation would help prevent tobacco use among our youth by raising the national age to legally purchase tobacco products from 18 to 21 as well as help reduce the number of young 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.

E-Cigarettes Under Scrutiny

The bill would also apply to all the young e-cigarette users.

Research shows that young people who use e-cigarettes are much more likely to transition to smoking cigarettes. For that reason, the letter stated that the ADA does not consider these nontraditional tobacco products to be safer (or less harmful) alternatives to smoking.

The ADA has also joined a coalition led by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids supporting the Reversing the Youth Tobacco Epidemic Act of 2019. That legislation addresses the e-cigarette epidemic and calls for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to implement health warnings for cigarette packages (including an oral cancer image) within 12 months.

If passed, the act also would raise the minimum age for purchasing non-traditional tobacco products such as e-cigarettes to 21 and prohibit non-face-to-face sales of all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes and e-cigarette accessories.

You can follow all of the ADA’s advocacy efforts on this issue at