The Pitch: Cigarettes

The salesman smiled, proud of his product. ‘It’s a sort of stick, and you light one end on fire, suck on the other end, and it gives you cancer! Or, like, a weird foot. There are pictures on each pack if you want to see all the prizes you can get.’

‘Prizes like cancer, or a weird foot?’

‘Or a gross eye!’

The customer looked over the small box. This one had a picture of a dying baby. ‘Do they taste nice?’

‘No! But you’ll get used to it eventually.’

‘Why would I keep smoking them long enough to get used to it?’

‘They’re very addictive!’

‘Will they make me feel good?’

‘No. But they’ll make you feel bad when you’re not smoking them, so it will seem like they make you feel good!’

‘Because I’ll temporarily stop feeling bad?’

‘Exactly!’

The customer took one of the little sticks out of the box, dried leaves wrapped in paper, and sniffed it. ‘Will they make me smell good?’

‘No!’

‘Will they make it more pleasant to kiss me?’

‘No!’

‘Will they turn my teeth and fingers a more attractive colour?’

‘The exact opposite!’ The salesman was passionate enough to break into song and dance at any moment.

‘I assume they’re affordable.’

‘Not even close! In Australia a pack will cost you over twenty dollars! If you smoke a pack a day, that’s a hundred and forty dollars a week, or seven thousand two hundred and eighty dollars a year!’

The customer put it back in the box. ‘I guess if I don’t like them I can just stop smoking them.’

‘Not so! In fact it’s so hard to stop there’s a whole industry dedicated to profiting from your desperation. Books, patches, gum, hypnosis. It will cost you a small fortune just to stop spending a small fortune!’

‘If they charge that much for solutions they must at least work.’

‘Not with any statistically significant success rate! And even if they do, you’ll likely relapse over and over for the rest of your life.’

‘So they’re terrible for me, addictive, taste bad, repel those who aren’t addicted as well, cost a fortune and provide no benefit?’

‘Exactly!’

‘I’ll take two packs.’

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