What Do British Call Cigarettes?

Discover the fascinating world of British cigarette slang, from ‘fags’ to ‘tabs.’ Explore the cultural significance and regional variations in cigarette terminology.


Cigarettes, the small rolled paper tubes filled with tobacco, are known by various names around the world. In this article, we will explore what the British commonly call cigarettes and the cultural significance behind these terms.

Common British Terms for Cigarettes

1. Fags: This term is one of the most common and widely used in the UK. It is believed to have originated from the British slang ‘faggots,’ which referred to bundles of sticks used for lighting fires. Over time, the term evolved into ‘fags’ to describe cigarettes.

2. Tabs: Another popular term for cigarettes in Britain is ‘tabs.’ This term is said to have originated from the French word ‘tabac,’ which means tobacco. It is commonly used in informal settings among friends.

3. Fags and Tabs: Some regions in the UK use both terms interchangeably for cigarettes. For example, in Scotland, people may refer to cigarettes as ‘fags’ in some areas and ‘tabs’ in others.

Cultural Significance

The names given to cigarettes in British culture reflect the country’s rich history and linguistic diversity. The use of slang terms like ‘fags’ and ‘tabs’ not only adds color to everyday conversations but also serves as a form of social bonding among smokers.

Case Studies

1. According to a study conducted by the University of Manchester, the term ‘fag’ is more commonly used in Northern England than in Southern England. This regional variation highlights the diverse dialects and slang within the UK.

2. A survey of British smokers found that the term ‘tabs’ is more popular among younger individuals, while older generations tend to prefer ‘fags.’ This generational difference in slang usage demonstrates how language evolves over time.


1. A report by the Office for National Statistics found that cigarette smoking rates in the UK have been steadily declining over the past decade. This trend is attributed to increased awareness of the health risks associated with smoking.

2. The British Lung Foundation estimates that smoking-related illnesses cost the National Health Service over £2 billion annually. This financial burden underscores the importance of promoting smoking cessation programs and public health initiatives.


In conclusion, the British have a unique way of referring to cigarettes that reflects their cultural heritage and language traditions. Whether you call it a ‘fag’ or a ‘tab,’ the act of smoking remains a controversial and divisive issue in society. As attitudes towards smoking continue to evolve, it is important to consider the impact of language and terminology on public health campaigns and smoking cessation efforts.

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