According to a study by Cancer Research UK, nearly a third of smokers over the age of 65 are "hardcore" with no interest in quitting.

Researchers found the proportion of hardcore smokers greatly increases with age - rising from five per cent of smokers aged 16-24 to 30 per cent of smokers aged 65 and above.

Researchers believe many of these smokers could be influenced by better targeted health messages.

The survey also reveals a third of hardcore smokers believe their health is totally unaffected by smoking and will remain so in the future.

Thirty one per cent cite smoking as the main pleasure in their life - an attitude epitomized by EastEnder Dot Cotton who rarely appears without a cigarette.

A hardcore smoker is defined as someone who has not gone less than a day without cigarettes in the past five years, has made no attempt to quit in the past year and has no desire or intention to quit.

About 16 per cent of all English smokers are categorised as hardcore but there are several smoking cessation services established in East and West Sussex aimed at helping people give up.

Hundreds of people across the county have managed to kick the habit with the help of the cessation teams and demand for their services is high.

Anyone interested in learning more can contact their local GP or primary care trust for more information.

Others wanting to try something a little different have found hypnosis and other alternative methods such as acupuncture have also helped.

Ellen Phillips, 65, from Brighton, is one of the exceptions to the rule.

After smoking for more than 30 years, she successfully managed to give up two years ago. She said: "When I started, people didn't know anything about the dangers so everyone was happily smoking away.

"My children started nagging me to give up about ten years ago and I knew it was bad for me but I never got around to it. Then one day I was reading something about National No Smoking Day so I decided to give it a go. It was terribly difficult but my family were great supporters.

"After a few weeks, I started to notice I wasn't as breathless as I used to be. Now I am feeling so much better and healthier."

Professor Martin Jarvis, assistant director of the Cancer Research UK health behaviour unit said: "As smokers get older, more of them develop entrenched attitudes. Some simply give up hoping they can ever succeed in quitting and some are lulled into a false sense of security simply by having survived so far.

"The reality is that by quitting cigarettes they can add years to their life.

"A smoker giving up at 65 still adds more than two years to their lifespan."

However, the study shows hardcore smokers actively defy pressures to quit - 56 per cent resent social pressures to give up and 40 per cent don't think their smoking influences children.

Jean King, director of tobacco control for Cancer Research UK, said: "Older smokers simply keep on smoking, unable to accept their addiction or the damage they are doing to their health. It is never too late to quit.

"There is help and advice available from GPs or helplines and a vast array of nicotine replacement therapies is available to help people beat their dependence, many available over the counter."

In England, about 284,000 patients are admitted to NHS hospitals each year due to diseases caused by smoking.

Smoking-related illness accounts for eight million consultations with GPs and more than seven million prescriptions each year.

Along with cancer, smokers develop an increased risk of angina, circulatory diseases, heart disease, osteoporosis and pneumonia.

Smokers who give up smoking at age 65 will immediately see health benefits with general fitness improving along with lung efficiency.

After only 20 minutes, blood pressure and pulse return to normal and after eight hours, oxygen levels in the blood normalise.

After 24 hours, the body is free from carbon monoxide.

For help to quit smoking, call the NHS Smoking Helpline on 0800 169 0 169.