Lewisham, Greenwich, Bexley and Bromley Councils are joining forces to tackle the black market cigarette trade in an attempt to cut the amount people smoke.

The Local Government Association (LGA) have warned such products posed a fire risk, hurt legitimate businesses and cost the UK approximately £3bn a year in unpaid duty.

It is estimated the black market trade sells an estimated 114 million cigarettes across the four South-East London boroughs alone annually.

In some cases these cigarettes contained human excrement, dead flies and asbestos, the LGA added.

It is claimed many of these cigarettes not only lack the safety precautions required to ensure a genuine product is made, but also subsequently contain much higher levels of tar, nicotine, carbon monoxide, lead and arsenic than normal cigarettes.

Vice-chairwoman of LGA’s safer and stronger communities board Joanna Spicer said: “People buying cheap cigarettes might think they are getting a great deal - but the truth is that they're not. If they knew what they might contain, they might think twice about buying them.

“Council prosecutions should serve as a strong warning to any shopkeeper thinking of stocking their shelves with illegal tobacco and not thinking twice about selling them cheaply to children and others.”

More to come.