NEARLY 20 per cent of cigarettes smoked in Newport city centre could be either counterfeits or from foreign countries, according to a new survey.

The research found the number has more than doubled from an estimated 7.7 per cent in quarter two of 2011 to 16.8 per cent in quarter two of 2012.

This puts the number found in the city above the national average - with the UK figure rising from 10.6 per cent in quarter two of 2011 to 12.4 per cent in quarter two of 2012.

The research by MS Intelligence involved hundreds of discarded packets being collected from Newport’s streets and bins and 12,700 in total from around the country.

The company helps businesses protect brands and intellectual properties and its work forms part of tobacco manufacturer Philip Morris International’s work to gain an insight into the illicit trade in cigarettes.

It found that in Newport, a sixth of all cigarette packets collected were either counterfeit or bought in a foreign country.

This is on top of the estimated 50 per cent of hand-rolled tobacco smoked in the city which comes from the black market.

This means that no UK tax was paid on these products- with Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs estimating it loses £3.1 billion across the country each year on tax revenue because of illegal tobacco sales.

Former Scotland Yard chief inspector Will O’Reilly said cigarettes intercepted by the UK Border Agency have been found to contain things like asbestos, rat droppings, human faeces and dead flies.

Mr O’Reilly said: "After a number of years in decline, there has been a sharp rise in illicit cigarettes. That's partly down to the economy - people can't afford the real product - and it is easier for counterfeiters to copy the packets