What Do They Call Cigarettes in the UK

Explore the unique slang terms for cigarettes in the UK, including ‘fags’ and ‘tabs’, their origins, prevalence, and impact on public health perceptions.


When it comes to smoking, the British have their own unique slang terms for cigarettes. In the UK, cigarettes are commonly referred to as ‘fags’ or ‘tabs’. Let’s explore the reasons behind these names and their prevalence in British culture.

Why are Cigarettes Called ‘Fags’?

The term ‘fag’ is believed to have originated from the British public school system, where younger students were often assigned as servants to older students. These younger students were called ‘fags’, and the term eventually came to be associated with cigarettes as well.

The Use of ‘Tabs’

In addition to ‘fags’, cigarettes are also commonly referred to as ‘tabs’ in the UK. This term is thought to have originated from the act of tapping a cigarette against the pack to settle the tobacco before smoking.

Popularity of Slang Terms

These slang terms have become widely accepted in British society, with many smokers using them interchangeably with the word ‘cigarettes’. They are often used informally in social settings and are a part of the unique linguistic landscape of the UK.

Case Studies

According to a study conducted by the British Lung Foundation, over 7 million people in the UK currently smoke cigarettes. Of these, a significant portion use the terms ‘fags’ or ‘tabs’ to refer to their smoking habits.

Public Health Impact

While the slang terms may seem harmless on the surface, they can have a significant impact on public health perceptions. Using casual language to refer to cigarettes can normalize smoking behavior and contribute to its social acceptability.


In conclusion, cigarettes are commonly called ‘fags’ or ‘tabs’ in the UK due to their historical origins and cultural significance. While these terms may be ingrained in British society, it is important to consider their implications on public health and smoking behaviors.

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