'Toxic' risk of counterfeit cigarettes sold in Sussex
Counterfeit cigarettes being sold in Sussex contain abnormally high levels of cancer-causing chemicals, a BBC investigation has revealed.
BBC South East Today found some brands had eight times as much lead as normal cigarettes.
Hastings MP Amber Rudd said many people were not aware of the dangers posed by brands smuggled into the country.
A pro-smoking lobby group said the high level of taxation on legal cigarettes was driving the illegal trade
The tests follow a BBC investigation in October into the illegal cigarette trade in Hastings and St Leonards.
Undercover reporters found packets made to look like well-known brands being sold for £2 to £3, less than half of the average UK price of legal brands.'Smuggling epidemic'
Some of the packets were sent to a tobacco testing laboratory.
One brand had eight times as much lead as normal cigarettes.
All contained higher levels of cadmium, which can severely damage the lungs and is linked with kidney disease.
Robert West, the director of tobacco studies at University College London, said fake cigarettes contained "high levels of toxic heavy metals".
"Heavy metals of this kind, like lead for example, accumulate in the body and the body finds it hard to get rid of these," he said.
"So it can build up levels over a period of time and can have a wide range of effects, for example on the nervous system."
The Conservative MP for Hastings and Rye Amber Rudd said: "If people buy these type of cigarettes, they're not getting what they think they're getting.
"They're getting something with high levels of poison so it will be expensive in the long run for their health."
Simon Clark, from the pro-smoking lobby group Forest, said the taxation on legal cigarettes had "set off a smuggling epidemic" as people sought out cheaper alternatives.