More than 20,000 illegal fake Chinese cigarettes were seized by council staff from a mail box in Greenwich.

Following a tip-off, council officers swooped in on the mail box and confiscated the haul on the same day they were delivered from China.

It contained 22,800 counterfeit cigarettes, with a street value of more than £12,000.

The council said a key concern with counterfeit cigarettes is that they are sold without age restrictions so younger people are encouraged to buy them, plus they are also much cheaper. But they do not conform to safety standards and have frequently been found not to self-extinguish when left - as legitimate ones do - which poses a fire risk.

Councillor Jackie Smith, cabinet member for community safety and environment, said: “This is great work in our fight against the availability of illegal tobacco.

“The trade supports other criminal activity in our communities such as drug dealing which is why it is vital that we stamp down heavily on it.

“The low price tag might appear attractive but the true cost to people and the community is high.”

“We urge everyone to report any suspected sales of potentially dangerous cigarette and tobacco products so we can disrupt this trade and catch the criminals involved.”