"We had incredible programs in place, then funding was cut," she said. "Meanwhile tobacco companies are driven to get new products out and they continue to hook young people."
Surgeon General Regina Benjamin issued a report on youth tobacco use on Thursday. Nearly one in four high school seniors and one in three young adults under 26 smoke. While progress was made in reducing teenage cigarette use, that progress has slowed in recent years. More students are using smokeless tobacco and many smoke and chew tobacco. The report concludes that the tobacco industry's $10 billion in annual marketing encourages young people to use tobacco.
The American Cancer Society states that approximately 3,000 teenagers start smoking every day and one-third of them will die prematurely of a smoking-related disease. Tobacco use continues to be the most common cause of preventable disease and death in the United States.
FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg issued a written statement on the report.
"Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death in our nation," she wrote. "And until we dramatically decrease the access and appeal of tobacco products to youth, it will remain one of America's most pressing health problems. The ground-breaking report by the Surgeon General not only documents the devastating consequences of tobacco use for our nation's youth, but also represents a clarion call for bold action at every level of government to implement proven strategies to keep kids off tobacco."
Hinton said she is disappointed that tobacco educators don't have the resources to better educate teenagers about the dangers of tobacco use.
"We need parents to be extremely aware of what's happening," she said. "One of three teenagers become addicted to tobacco the first time they use it. It causes permanent changes in the brain. We need to stop tobacco companies from marketing to young people."
Ken Garcia of Altria Group, the parent company of Philip Morris, the nation's largest tobacco company, said in an interview with USA Today that about half the price of cigarettes is state and federal taxes. Philip Morris markets its products to adults, he said.
The American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry's website states that children at most risk for tobacco use:
* have parents, siblings or friends who smoke
* exhibit characteristics such as toughness and acting grown up
* deny the harmful effects of tobacco
* have fewer coping skills and smoke to alleviate stress
* have poor self-esteem and depression
* have poor academic performance, especially girls
* are very influenced by advertisements that relate cigarette smoking to being thin and/or suffer from eating disorders.