Fewer smokers across Sussex are signing up to kick the habit.

Latest figures show 14,866 people in the county pledged to give up cigarettes between April 2013 and the end of March compared to 17,753 the year before.

Research has shown that as more and more people give up over the years, those who remain are a hard core of smokers who find it the most difficult to stop or who do not wish to.

Focus is expected to shift over the coming years towards preventing people starting in the first place although stop smoking services will still continue.

The Health and Social Care Information Centre figures show 3,284 people signed up for an NHS stop smoking course in Brighton and Hove last year compared to 3,529 in the previous year.

However the city council’s public health team still managed to hit its target of helping 2,000 of these give up.

Out of 5,370 people who signed up in East Sussex, 2,427 gave up and in West Sussex, 3,031 people out of the 6,212 who joined an NHS course were successful.

Brighton and Hove council’s health development specialist Susan Venables said the city was bucking the national trend and continuing to achieve its target of 2,000 smoking quitters a year.

She said: “This has been the case in almost every year over the last decade. “The number of people who set a quit date to stop smoking has indeed fallen in Brighton and Hove – by 3% over the last year – however, thanks to some hard work from smoking cessation advisers in primary care and the community the numbers of quitters has not reduced.

“The focus of tobacco control services is likely to change over the coming years with more emphasis on stopping people from starting smoking.

“Nevertheless, stop smoking clinics remain available in a number of settings and locations including GP surgeries, pharmacies and in the community.

“Workplace clinics are also available providing one to one and group sessions.

“Pregnant women who want to quit smoking can also access the service through GP and antenatal services.”