A WARNING has been issued to the public about buying counterfeit cigarettes, tobacco and alcohol.

Barnsley Council has recently employed two enforcement officers to deal with counterfeit, bootlegged and niche tobacco products and illicit and counterfeit alcohol.

Coun Roy Miller, cabinet spokesperson for development, environment and culture, said: "In a time when every penny counts, some smokers may be tempted to take up the offer of the man down the pub or in town selling cheap cigarettes or alcohol.

"Counterfeit cigarettes can seriously damage the health of people who smoke them. While fake cigarettes do contain tobacco, there are also several other ingredients in there too that you may not have bargained for.

"It's not uncommon to find sand, plastic and other toxic material such as arsenic and benzene."

Laboratory analysis of fake cigarettes has found 75 per cent more tar, 28 per cent more nicotine and about 63 per cent more carbon monoxide than those from legitimate manufacturers.

This could greatly increase the chances of cancer and other diseases for those who smoke them.

Dealers in counterfeit tobacco can be prosecuted with penalties of an unlimited fine or up to 10 years in prison. Sellers of illegal alcohol can face an unlimited fine or up to two years in prison.