Green’s Dictionary of Slang

coffin nail n.2

also coffin screw, coffin spike, coffin tack
[? no more than the resemblance of the cigarette to the nail; nicotine’s cancerous potential is very much a phenomenon of 1960s+]

1. a cigarette; occas. a cigar (see cit. 1945).

in Texas Siftings 18 Feb. 8: A youth [...] puffed at an ill-smelling coffin nail.
Dly Press (Newport News, VA) 13 July 7/2: The young man put the coffin nail between his lips.
[US]E.H. Babbitt ‘College Words and Phrases’ in DN II:i 28: coffin-nail or coffin-tack, n. A cigarette.
[US]Hartford Republican (KY) 6 Jan. 8/5: [headline] Japs Turn to Cigarette. Pipe is Being Rapidly Displaced by Coffin Nail.
[Aus]Bendigo Indep. (Vic.) 2 Apr. 3/2: [A]nd then came a weird, hair-raising display picturing [...] the evil effects of cigarette smoking. Cigarettes, ticked as ‘coffin nails,’ hung from a rafter, and below was a representation of a cemetary, cigarette boxes forming the head stones.
[US]O. Johnson Varmint 289: Why, thankee, I’ve been aching for just a good old coffin-nail.
Eve. Sun (Baltimore, MD) 8 June 6/7: The ‘Nail’ May Become More Popular [...] the present King smokes more cigarettes than cigars.
[US]B.T. Harvey ‘Addenda -The Northwest’ in DN IV:ii 162: coffin tack, n. A cigarette. Also coffin nail.
[Aus]Aussie (France) 6 Aug. 13/2: And, lo, he smoketh his master’s cigarettes and recks not of the tribulation to come and sometimes he cometh a gutzer. For his master counteth the coffin screws and they are short in the count.
Courier (Waterloo, IA) 26 Dec. 6/4: Stop fooling with that coffin tack.
[US]M. Bodenheim Georgie May 107: These coffin-nails taste lak shugah—give me Home-runs ev’y time.
[US](con. 1920s) J.T. Farrell Young Manhood in Studs Lonigan (1936) 248: Leave the cigarettes alone for a minute. It takes wind to win a football game, and you don’t get wind eating them coffin nails!
[US]A.J. Pollock Und. Speaks 23/2: Coffin nail, a cigar Coffin tack, a cigarette.
[Can]R. Service ‘The Ballad of Salvation Bill’ in Bar Room Ballads (1978) 602: Now there was I, a husky guy, whose god was Nicotine. / With a ‘coffin-nail’ a fixture of my mug.
[US]J. Archibald ‘Smoke Scream’ in 10-Story Detective Feb. [Internet] They sit down by the corpse and puff at the coffin spikes and [...] run the stogies along under their bugles to get the aroma.
[UK]Sun. Post 26 May 6/2: Each fag a coffin nail they say, / I drive home twenty-five each day. / Tobacco is a noxious weed / But — I like it!
[US]C. Willingham ‘Guardian Angel’ in Gates of Hell (1966) 132: Give me another of those cigarettes [...] Or should I say ‘coffin tacks’?
[US]Mississippi Same ‘Nicotine Fit’ [lyrics] Get outta here with your coffin nails / Can’t you see you’re on the wrong trail, / Go way, boy, don’t wanna see one lit / Or I’ll go into a nicotine fit.
[UK]J. Burke Till Death Us Do Part 151: Your pipe tobacco is quite healthy, en it? Compared to them things he smokes. Coffin-nails, they are.
[Aus]D. Ireland Burn 80: I don’t smoke coffin nails, I’m a pipe man.
[Ire](con. 1930s–50s) E. Mac Thomáis Janey Mack, Me Shirt is Black 96: Hey Mack, any fags, any weeds, any butts, any stabbers, any coffin nails?
[US]W.D. Ehrhart Passing Time (1988) 24: Might be a lot easier if you got rid of those coffin nails.
[Ire]J. O’Connor Salesman 44: ‘Fierce, the old coffin nails,’ he said, taking a light from Seánie.
OnLine Dict. of Playground Sl. [Internet] coffin nails n. cigarettes – known to schoolboys to cause deaths long before it was popularly accepted [...] Coffin Nails was a term used in the song by Sheila Hancock: ‘Tobacco, tobacco I hate you I do / Like Venus I’d look if it wasn’t for you / [...] / Oh nail in my coffin so pale and so thin / I am a fool to keep knocking you in / But I’ll give up the habit I will even yet....... / When I’ve had just one more cigarette’.
[UK]Eve. Standard (London) 7 Jan. 36/1: May I suggest you make it your new year resolution to get off the coffin nails?

2. (US campus) one who smokes to excess.

[US]R. Bolwell ‘College Sl. Words And Phrases’ in DN IV:iii 232: coffin-nail, n. [...] A cigarette ‘fiend’; one who smokes too much.