US tobacco giant Philip Morris is taking legal action against retailers suspected of selling counterfeit cigarettes.

The maker of Marlboro, Benson & Hedges and Virginia Slims said it was suing 325 retailers Stateside to stop the retail sale of counterfeit versions of the company’s cigarettes and the illegal use of its US trademarks.

Vice president, brand integrity, Jack Holleran said: “These lawsuits are intended to send a clear message that selling counterfeit cigarettes is illegal, and that Philip Morris will take aggressive action against those who do it to help stop sale of this product to consumers.

Holleran added that the lawsuits would also help gather information about “where this product is coming from so that we, working together with government agencies, legislators and tobacco retailers, wholesalers and suppliers, can stop the sale of counterfeit cigarettes”.

The 15 lawsuits are being filed in federal courts in Arizona, California, Texas, Florida, New York, Washington and Louisiana.