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ADA policy on cigarettes and other tobacco products

ADA tobacco policy dates from U.S. Surgeon General Luther Terry's (M.D.) Smoking and Health report. The 1964 ADA House of Delegates passed a resolution urging dentists to warn their patients about the health hazards of cigarette smoking (Health Hazards of Tobacco Use (Trans. 1964:276)).

ADA policy and successive surgeons general have built on those landmark policy statements.  The Association adopted policy in 1995 authorizing U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulation of tobacco products and surgeons general over the years further defined the oral and systemic consequences of tobacco use.

The ADA House has adopted policy to:

  • classify nicotine as an addictive substance;
  • mandate warning labels on tobacco products;
  • levy significant taxes on tobacco products;
  • set age restrictions for purchasers of tobacco products;
  • restrict the advertising and marketing of cigarettes, pipes, cigars and smokeless tobacco products (including bans on free sampling);
  • ban the sale of tobacco products through vending machines;
  • impose licensing requirements for tobacco retailers; and,
  • prohibit smoking at all ADA meetings and conferences.

The surgeon general moved in a series of tobacco reports toward declaring in the year 2000 Oral Health in America report, "The use of tobacco products—cigarettes, cigars, pipes and smokeless (spit) tobacco products (snuff and chewing tobacco)—has emerged as a major preventable risk factor for a number of oral diseases and disorders." This was the first report of a surgeon general devoted solely to oral health but other surgeon general reports over the years have cited oral and systemic consequences of tobacco use.

The Oral Health in America report discusses tobacco use and oral and pharyngeal cancers, periodontal diseases and dental caries. 

Additional ADA resources and policy statements are available online at www.ada.org/goto/tobaccocontrol. For access to the many tobacco-related reports from the surgeon general, go to www.surgeongeneral.gov/library/reports.

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, which served as the lead agency for development of the surgeon general's report on oral health, also offers tobacco information at www.nidcr.nih.gov with links to other National Institutes of Health resources.