Thirty years ago, smoking was seen as a social thing to do and there weren't many places where it was frowned upon to light up.

But information about the health risks involved, not just for the smoker but for the people immediately around them, has led to a change in thinking.

A growing number of smokers are now trying to give up cigarettes, for reasons ranging from health worries to concern about how much the habit is costing them financially.

The difficulty is that giving up can affect a person's lifestyle. If you always go to the pub on a Friday night, habit will dictate you light up when you get there.

Breaking out of the cycle is one of the main stumbling blocks and this is where Smoking Cessation Courses, run by East Sussex, Brighton and Hove Health Authority, are helping.

The government aims to reduce the death rate in people under 75 from coronary heart disease and strokes, by at least two fifths by 2010 .

A drop in the number of people who smoke would be a major step towards meeting this target in the county.

Andy Upperton and Geoff Draper have both managed to quit after trying out the anti-smoking drug Zyban as part of their course.

Doctors warned 51-year old Mr Upperton from Hove, he would only have about six months to live if he continued with his 60 to 70-a day habit.

But, despite ever increasing respiratory and heart problems, Mr Upperton was unwilling to give up the habit of a lifetime.

He said: "I had the fatalist approach I decided if I was going to go, I was going to go, but I wouldn't quit smoking.

"Eventually, I heard about the new drug and the course and agreed to give it a go.

"I was very sceptical about the whole thing but, after a week of taking the tablets, I started to go off the idea of smoking and eventually reached the point where I just didn't want a cigarette.

"It was amazing. I have smoked nearly all my life.

When I worked as a lorry driver, I travelled long hours throughout Europe and had cigarette after cigarette.

"After I stopped, I started to notice the smell of smoke on other people's clothes.

"It was something I had never thought about before and I realised how unpleasant it must be for others.

Now, I'm looking forward to the fact I will be part of my young children's lives for a long time."

Geoff Draper, 48, from Hove, kicked his 40 to 50-a day habit after 32 years.

He said: "It is not just about the drug, it is also the support and help you get from the advisors at the smoking cessation clinics and your own willpower.

"I was desperate to give up and tried everything but nothing seemed to work for me until I tried Zyban.

"I'm not saying it's a wonder-cure, because there is still a lot of effort involved.

But it is clear it can work for those who have tried everything to give up. "I feel as though I'm now master of my own destiny, not dependent on cigarettes and not worried every time I get an ache or pain that it's cancer."

About 480 people who used the service in the last year are still not smoking.

A joint initiative by the health authority and local NHS trusts, the service is targeted at dependent smokers with a strong motivation to quit, pregnant women and people with young children.

People need a referral from their GP or another health professional.

There is a high demand for the service and there may be a waiting list in some areas.

The team is currently training nurses who work in GP practices to provide a stop-smoking service for less dependent smokers.

A £224,000 cash boost from the government last year, was used to recruit more specialist advisers for individual and group sessions, for training, additional support and to fund a nicotine replacement therapy voucher scheme.

Specialist advisers now work in Brighton and Hove, the Lewes district, the Eastbourne and Wealden areas and Hastings and Rother.

Details of smoking cessation courses in local areas are available from local GPs or from the health authority health promotion team on 01273 485300.