Tobacco has been variously hailed as a gift from the gods, a miraculous cure-all for life's physical ills, a solace to the lonely soldier or sailor, a filthy habit, a corrupting addiction, and the greatest disease-producing product known to man. Tobacco in any form is a major independent risk factor for the development of oral and pharyngeal cancer and other malignancies of the upper aerodigestive tract. Tobacco contains several distinct compounds, some of which are capable of inducing mutagenesis, and facilitate tumorigenesis. It is believed that they exert their action by damaging the DNA and therefore inducing mutations and could ultimately lead to cancer. The dangers posed to oral health from smoking and chewing tobacco are well documented within the dental literature but the public’s lack of knowledge of the risks is a concern. However it is vital that more is done to ensure that public awareness of tobacco-related oral diseases continues to improve and more people are regularly screened. The combination of providing opportunistic advice, together with regular screening will reduce the overall morbidity and mortality from oral cancer and other mouth disorders.