Photo by Nickolas Muray. George Eastman House from Rochester, NY, United States
This post is dedicated to all those who have already given up on their New Year’s resolutions!
It is an established fact that smoking causes heart disease, lung cancer, bad breath, sterility and, in the UK, poverty. I do not wish to encourage anyone to smoke. Smoking is a bad habit but this is no reason for Tefl to pretend that it doesn’t exist; many learners do still smoke and they have the right to know the vocabulary of smoking in English.
Cigarettes are bought in packets of 10 or 20, so we normally stipulate which size we want when buying:
– Ten American Spirit, please.
– Twenty Benson & Hedges, please.
The part of the cigarette, containing the filter, which you discard is called the (cigarette) butt /end or, in colloquial UK and Australian English, the fag end:
Offering A Cigarette
There are a number of ways you can offer a cigarette:
– Have a cigarette.
– Would you like a cigarette?
– Help yourself to a cigarette.
In all of these examples (and the others below) the word ‘cigarette’ could be replaced by ‘fag’ in a colloquial British or Australian English context. But be careful, ‘fag’ in US English means a gay man and so could lead to confusion! A packet of cigarettes is often called ‘a packet of fags’ in Britain.
Asking For A Cigarette
As we have said, smoking is an expensive habit in Britain, so people do not tend to share their cigarettes as much as in other countries where they are cheaper. For this reason it is not so common to ask other people for a cigarette unless you have an intimate relationship with them. Asking strangers to give you a cigarette is particularly frowned on and you may get the answer “no!”. It is even possible that people offer to buy a cigarette off you! Either way, if you do want to ask someone you know for a cigarette you could use one of the following:
– Could I take one of your cigarettes, I left mine in the car?
– Could I bum a cigarette off you? – I forgot to buy some.
Notice that you would normally give a reason why you are asking the other person for a cigarette instead of buying your own.
Refusing A Cigarette
– No, thanks. I’m trying to give up.
– No, thanks. I’m trying to cut down.
– No, thank you. I don’t smoke.
Accepting A Cigarette
The expressions we use to accept a cigarette are the same as those for accepting anything else:
– Cheers. (colloquial, UK English)
– Ta. (very colloquial, UK English)
– Thank you.
– That’s very kind of you. (formal)
Matches & Lighters
– Have you got a light, please?
– No, sorry. I don’t smoke.
 to give up on (give-gave-given) – renounce
 bad breath – halitosis
 poverty – the state of being poor, not having money. Smoking is very expensive in Britain.
 to encourage – incite
 to pretend that – (false friend) act as if, simulate that
 do smoke – (emphatic) smoke
 packet (UK English) – pack (US English)
 to discard – throw away, get rid of
 ashtray – container where you leave cigarette ash (= burned material) and cigarette ends.
 ciggie – (UK informal) cigarette
 to stub out – put out, extinguish
 to lead to (lead-led-led) – result in
 to share – give away, divide up, use in common
 stranger – (false friend) sb. you don’t know
 particularly – (false friend) especially
 to frown on – disapprove of, censure, deplore
 off – (in this case) from
 to cadge sth. – (slang, pejorative) ask for sth. without paying for it
 to run out (run-ran-run) – have none left, have used up gradually
 to bum sb. – (slang, pejorative) take sth. without paying
 instead of – in contrast to, rather than, as an alternative to
 to feel like – want, desire
 to refuse – decline, say ‘no’
 politely – courteously
 to give up (give-gave-given) – stop (a habit)
 to cut down – reduce consumption
 cheers – (colloquial) thank you, thanks
 just – (in this case) a moment ago
 to put sth. out (put-put-put) – extinguish (a fire, cigarette, etc.)
 ta – (slang) thanks
 match – (in this case) small stick of wood that can be easily ignited
 lighter – gadget for igniting cigarettes