SANTA CLARA COUNTY, Calif. (KTVU) - The Centers for Disease Control reports only 15 percent of adults in the Unites States now smoke. The national smoking rate dropped from 17 percent to 15 percent last year, which is the biggest decline in one year in decades.
According to the latest numbers from the California Department of Public Health, latest numbers show the rate in Santa Clara County is nine percent.. Most people said they're not surpised given increased awareness of health concerns and the growing popularity of e-cigarettes.
It would be easy to spot someone lighting up at restaurants and bars 50 years ago when more than 40 percent of the country were smokers. In downtown Campbell, it was hard to find one person smoking.
"It's definitely a habit," said Laura Trussell who works in Campbell. "It's definitely programmed in and there's definitely a withdrawal period. if you are stressed and tired, it's hard to concentrate on not smoking."
Trussell said she's been smoking for 20 years, a pack a day. She's tried to kick the habit several times. She's in the minority among 15 percent of Americans who smoke. According to the CDC, more people quit smoking in the United States in 2015 in decades.
"I think it's great the smoking rate is going down," said Julia Barba of Breathe California. "It's exciting. It's what we want."
While it's unclear why the smoking rate fell, the Breathe Calfornia nonprofit, that promotes lung health, attributes the decline to anti-smoking advertising campaigns, smoking bans in public areas and the rise of e-cigarettes especially among teens.
"Even though they have fruit flavors," said Barba. "Even though they might seem like a healthier alternative these products still contain nicotine and might have other hazards."
"We have seen the popularity of e-cigarettes increase," said Chuck Giarratana of Vapors Smoke Shop. "I believe that's indicative of more people having success with them quitting cigarettes."
Giarratana said sales for their e-cigarette products have gone up 30 percent in the last three years, while sales for traditional tobacco products have dropped five to 10 percent.
Jamie Chu started smoking in 1996 and quit three years ago. She now uses vaporizers, seeing them as a better alternative to cigarette smoke.
"What we are doing is we are basically taking the nicotine and adding few different base ingredients and flavors widely reducing the amount of chemicals in a pack of cigarettes," said Chu.
Experts are optimistic the smoking rate will decline even more given new federal rules on e-cigarettes including banning those products to minors. Thoose in the vaping industry aren't so sure.