There is strong evidence that cigarette smoking causes adverse outcomes in people with cancer. However, more research is needed regarding those effects and the effects of alternative tobacco products and of secondhand smoke, the effects of cessation (before diagnosis, during treatment, or during survivorship), the biologic mechanisms, and optimal strategies for tobacco dependence treatment in oncology. Fundamentally, tobacco is an important source of variation in clinical treatment trials. Nevertheless, tobacco use assessment has not been uniform in clinical trials. Progress has been impeded by a lack of consensus regarding tobacco use assessment suitable for cancer patients. The NCI-AACR Cancer Patient Tobacco Use Assessment Task Force identified priority research areas and developed recommendations for assessment items and timing of assessment in cancer research. A cognitive interview study was conducted with 30 cancer patients at the NIH Clinical Center to evaluate and improve the measurement items. The resulting Cancer Patient Tobacco Use Questionnaire (C-TUQ) includes Core items for minimal assessment of tobacco use at initial and follow-up time points, and an Extension set. Domains include the following: cigarette and other tobacco use status, intensity, and past use; use relative to cancer diagnosis and treatment; cessation approaches and history; and secondhand smoke exposure. The Task Force recommends that assessment occur at study entry and, at a minimum, at the end of protocol therapy in clinical trials. Broad adoption of the recommended measures and timing protocol, and pursuit of the recommended research priorities, will help us to achieve a clearer understanding of the significance of tobacco use and cessation for cancer patients.