THOUSANDS of cigarettes thought to be counterfeit have been taken off the streets of Barrow.

Trading Standards are investigating after hundreds of packets of the tobacco products worth nearly £3,000 were seized by police.

Authorities have sent the products back to the manufacturer to check whether they are counterfeit.

Barrow Council's health spokesman Iain Mooney said he was concerned there would be more of the products on the streets.

"These dealers usually target children and people in more deprived areas.

"We've seen an increase in this as deprivation has risen.

"Illegal tobacco poses a number of risks to the public, with many batches being cut with even more harmful additives.

"Dealers are known to target children, getting them hooked on tobacco at an early age and then often supplying them with drugs also.

"Smoking puts huge pressures on our NHS services and the complications caused by illegal tobacco only exacerbates this."

A spokesman for Cumbria County Council warned of the dangers that come from trading counterfeit cigarettes.

He said: "Cheap cigarettes makes it easier for children to get hold of them and to start smoking; illegal tobacco dealers help children in your area to get hooked.

"Children are often aware who is selling it locally and at pocket money prices.

"Even if you don’t think local sellers are selling to kids, many are.

"The illegal tobacco trade is linked to criminals. People supplying it locally are often involved in drugs or loan sharking.

"Buying it means supporting crime and can put children into contact with criminals.

"Cheap tobacco encourages smokers to keep smoking and to smoke more, and can break down their willpower to quit.

"Counterfeit cigarettes and tobacco have been found to contain arsenic, pesticides & rat poison.

"It robs local hospitals and schools of money for vital services."

The cigarettes were handed to police after being discovered in the car of a motorist pulled over for driving offences.