CDA-supported anti-tobacco bills advance

Several CDA-supported bills that would help further the effort to fight tobacco use passed out of their first legislative committee hearings.

SB 151 by Senator Ed Hernandez (D-West Covina), which would raise the minimum age to purchase tobacco products from 18 to 21, passed unanimously in the Senate Health Committee. The bill would address the fact that 90 percent of tobacco users start before the age of 21 and that 75 percent of teen smokers continue into their adult years.

AB 768 by Assemblyman Tony Thurmond (D-Berkeley), which would ban the use of all tobacco products in any baseball stadium in the state, passed in the Assembly Arts, Entertainment, Sports, Tourism, and Internet Media Committee.

SB 140 by Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), which would extend current restrictions and prohibitions on tobacco products to electronic cigarettes, also passed in the Senate Health Committee.  

These bills have been scheduled for additional committee hearings.

According to the FDA, tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of disease, disability and death in the United States, responsible for more than 480,000 deaths each year. All forms of tobacco contain high concentrations of cancer-causing agents, and these substances subject users to increased cancer risk not only of the oral cavity, but also the pharynx, larynx and esophagus. Other traits of long-term tobacco users include stained teeth, halitosis, gum disease and a dulled sense of taste and smell.

With the recent passing of Major League Baseball great Tony Gwynn from mouth cancer, CDA reminds dentists that they should help their patients stop using tobacco and smokeless tobacco products.

Experience shows that a patient who has “had this spot forever” can easily overlook an oral cancer lesion, which often grows slowly and may be painless. Dentists are often the only health professionals who regularly see the patient and can stay engaged in ensuring that a "spot" is not, and does not become, a threat to the patient's health. Dentists should conduct regular oral cancer screenings on all patients. In addition to consistent documentation of screenings, follow-up and referral of any suspicious lesion or area is strongly recommended.

Danger signs of oral cancer include:

  • A sore that does not heal.
  • A lump or white patch.
  • A prolonged sore throat.
  • Difficulty chewing.
  • Restricted movement of the tongue or jaws.
  • A feeling of something in the throat.

Dentists can help their patients become tobacco free by using the online tobacco cessation information on U.S. Health and Human Services' Be Tobacco Free website or Smokefree.gov. Dentists also can refer their patients to 800.QUITNOW (800.784.8669) or 800.NOBUTTS (800.662.8887) for phone support and to set up a personalized plan to quit.

For more information on smokeless tobacco use in Major League Baseball athletes, read the January CDA Journal.