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The Hilarious Origin Of Tommy's Cigarette Habits On Peaky Blinders

The crime-drama period-piece "Peaky Blinders" has incredibly impressive scores on Rotten Tomatoes, and it's safe to say it's been a real hit with fans. Many could argue that one of the reasons the show has reached such success over the years is its magnetic, no-nonsense main character Thomas Shelby.

Cillian Murphy has played an assortment of excellent roles throughout his career, starring in films like "28 Days Later," "Sunshine," and the upcoming "Oppenheimer" (via IMDb). But there are those out there that would argue his time on the small screen is where one of his most notable characters resides. Murphy's portrayal of Thomas Shelby, and the actor's relentless dedication to crafting such an impactful persona onscreen, earned the talented star a coveted National Television Award for Best Drama Performance in 2020. The serious leader of the Shelby family always makes his presence known when he enters the frame, and there is no denying that Murphy successfully cultivated a dominating antihero persona that has entertained viewers for 36 episodes of the BAFTA-winning series.

His efforts have caused quite a stir with fans, with elements of the character (such as the Shelby signature hairstyle) becoming popular with followers of the series. It's no secret people love watching Thomas Shelby in action so much, and they start to notice certain things — like how he never eats or the peculiar pattern he goes through before lighting a cigarette. While there isn't much about the character to laugh about, the way he started the odd pre-cigarette ritual is pretty funny.

The origin story involves a real sticky situation

Tommy Shelby has smoked so many cigarettes throughout the series, and during that time, some may have noticed the odd maneuver he employs before lighting it up. He rubs the cigarette around his lips, almost like lipstick. Cillian Murphy was asked about this little quirk in an interview with BBC Radio 1 (via YouTube), saying, "if you don't rub them across your lips initially, they will stick, you see, so that just became this sort of idiosyncrasy, but it was out of necessity because otherwise, the cigarettes would stick to my lip. And I just kept doing it and it became a Tommy thing." It makes sense that the habit would become second nature, especially considering how much Tommy Shelby and the rest of the characters smoke in every entry.

Thankfully, Murphy probably isn't rubbing real tobacco on his lips before striking a match. Helen McCory, who played Polly Gray in the series, revealed to Distractify that they use herbal cigarettes on the show. Herbal cigarettes are common in the industry, and while still unhealthy, they are safer than actual cigarettes.

Though the cigarettes are not real, Murphy did have a real problem on his hands when it came to them sticking to his lips. Nothing takes away your street cred like bumbling a bogey while trying to look tough. There aren't many funny things to be said about the "Peaky Blinders" character, but the reasoning for Tommy Shelby's pre-cigarette routine is pretty humorous.