Let’s do a small experiment. Imagine you have no idea as to what is smoking and have never heard of tobacco in your entire life. You have seen no movies where actors use cigarettes, haven’t stumbled upon any kinds of advertisements endorsing smoking, and have never met a single person ever putting something in his mouth, torching it, and throwing a puff of smoke into the atmosphere.
Basically, your memory revolving around smoking is eviscerated. Now, if I come to you and show you a small cylindrical container that consists of some burnable content and ask you to put it between your teeth and light it up, what would you do?
Well, naturally you will ask, “Why would I do that? What’s in it for me?”
Then I’d say, “Honestly, nothing much. You’d probably kill yourself in all honesty if you keep doing that.”
“Well, WTF?!!?!? Why would you give me such a thing and why would anyone ever buy anything like that on God’s Green Earth?”
“Business, baby. Oh, and did I forget to mention that it also looks cool? And you know the fun part? Our customers are pretty chill with it. I mean dude, we literally say on our packaging that ‘Smoking Kills’ and yet our business is booming.1”
“Wow man, that’s insane. I wish I could also create a product like this with such an amazing pull. I mean, holy shit dude! Salesmen talk about all kinds of fake advantages their product can offer and people don’t give a shit, and here you are, literally telling people that they may die and people buy like crazy. What a time to be alive!”
The conversation is likely going to go someway like that. But seriously, it intrigues the shit out of me that how does a product—containing chemicals which are also found in insecticides, mothballs, rat poison, batteries, rocket fuels, nail polish remover, hair dye2—gain such massive popularity(over a billion people) and gave rise to a multi-billion dollar industry?