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Organized dentistry supports raising tobacco purchasing age to 21

June 10, 2019

By Jennifer Garvin

Washington — The Organized Dentistry Coalition said June 7 it supports raising the legal age to purchase tobacco products from 18 to 21.

In a letter to Sen. Maj. Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., the coalition praised the lawmakers for introducing S 1541, the Tobacco-Free Youth Act.

"As you know, this legislation would increase the legal age to purchase tobacco products from 18 to 21 years old and is critical in addressing our current youth tobacco epidemic," the organizations wrote. "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% 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 the letter, the coalition 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.  

"Moreover, the bill would apply to the more than 3.6 million middle and high school students who are e-cigarette users," the organizations said, citing the 2018 National Youth Tobacco Survey. "Research shows that young people who use e-cigarettes are more likely to transition to smoking cigarettes."

Follow all of the ADA's advocacy efforts on tobacco at ADA.org/tobacco.