Sales of fake cigarettes laced with poo have spiked as the black market for cheap fags booms amid Britain’s cost of living crisis.
Gangs are cashing in on soaring prices as smokers in the north and Midlands struggle to afford legitimate cigs, found the makers of Marlboro.
Almost one in five smokes puffed in the UK is either contraband or counterfeit, a report by Philip Morris International revealed.
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This rises to nearly one in three in the north east and more than one in four in Yorkshire and the Humber.
Former Scotland Yard detective chief inspector Will O’Reilly, now a consultant for the tobacco industry, said: “Illicit cigarettes pose a risk to people’s homes in terms of house fires and they’ve been found to contain contaminants, such as mites, insect eggs, fungi and even faeces.”
Mr O’Reilly said he and his team found phony gaspers are “widely available” for sale on British streets “month-in, month-out”.
He added: “Organised criminal groups appear to consider the risk of being caught well worth the prospect of making around £1.5million profit for every container load they bring into the UK.”
Hair and animal excrement has been regularly discovered in seized fake ciggies, said the firm, which is working with custom officers.
Sales of bogus tobacco products jumped by more than a third last year, topping three billion cigarettes for the first time.
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It comes after Philip Morris broke ranks with rival tobacco firms to call for a ban on cigarettes by 2030.
The global giant, which also makes brands including Chesterfield and L&M, wants to switch to vaping products and medicines.
Fake cigarettes had been coming into the UK from Kremlin ally Belarus, but since Russia ’s invasion of Ukraine, production is being ramped up in Belgium, Holland and Luxembourg.
The average cost for a pack of 20 genuine cigs in the UK.
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