Many smokers began the habit in their teens.
“My boyfriend smoked, so it was easier to kiss him (if I smoked too),” smoker Lynda Barbour said.
The majority of Jim Hooker’s family smoked, so he grew up with it.
Hooker has been smoking for 30 years, while Barbour kicked the habit 20 years ago. Their home state of California leads the nation in those who have quit and those who never started smoking.
“Over one-third of the population don't know a smoker (and) have not seen a smoker in the last year,” said John P. Pierce, a professor at the University of California at San Diego’s Moores Cancer Center.
Researchers analyzed 42 years of government survey data and found that heavy pack-a-day smoking was down significantly nationwide, with the largest decrease in California.
“The large tobacco control program in California, which started in 1988, that had a major impact on smoking rates,” Pierce said.
The study, which appears in the Journal of the American Medical Association, shows high cigarette taxes and enforcing smoke-free environments are stronger in California than in other states.
In 2007, less than 3 percent of Californians smoked a pack a day compared with 9.3 percent in North Carolina and 7 percent in the rest of the nation.
California also saw lung cancer rates drop to half the rates in the rest of the country.
The study also found that fewer young people were getting addicted to smoking in the first place.
Researchers say moderate to high-intensity smoking has declined significantly across all ages groups as well.