The impossible takes a little longer

You wouldn't give a cigarette to a kid, would you? Of course not (anymore). Also, 7 other things worth a click.

Today’s email is about:

  • a Christmas card,

  • Abbey Road,

  • statistics,

  • the FDA, and

  • doing the impossible.

We’ll start with the card.

My brother-in-law and sister-in-law won the creativity contest with their holiday card this year (at least among the cards I saw): their family recreated an iconic Beatles album cover.

(If you can’t see this photo, please try enabling images.)

I’m sure you know the original, but on the off chance you don’t, here it is:

I loved this. I also had a lot of questions about how they pulled it off. For one thing, the street where they shot the photo is not exactly devoid of traffic.

Nice details, too—like how my niece is barefoot, just as Paul McCartney was in the original, and how she’s holding a candy cane in her right hand, much as he was holding a cigarette in his.

Ah, the cigarette.

Cigarettes and statistics

Here’s the thing. There’s no way they could have recreated the album cover exactly on a Christmas card in 2019 (almost-2020).

Because there’s no way you’d give a cute kid like my niece a cigarette today, under any circumstances whatsoever.

This was not always the case, to put it lightly. No pun intended.

(Oh, who am I kidding. I totally intended it.)

People smoked. A lot. And anyone who said that they’d stop was once seen as naive.

But while we’re still nowhere near zero, it’s no surprise to see statistics that show the percentage of U.S. adults who smoke (or smoked) over the decades has nosedived:

  • 1950s 45% (Gallup)

  • 1960s 40% (Gallup)

  • 1970s 40% (Gallup)

  • 1980s 32% (Gallup)

  • 1990s 26% (Gallup)

  • 2005 20.9% (CDC)

  • 2016 15.5% (CDC)

  • 2018 13.7% (CDC)

True, cigarettes are still a $100 billion business in the United States, and the tobacco companies still spend nearly $10 billion a year in advertising.

But that almost makes it even more surprising that the Food and Drug Administration just banned tobacco sales of any kind to anyone under age 21 in the entire United States.

The 21 Club

This new rule sort of came out of nowhere.

On December 20, President Trump signed a $1.4 trillion federal budget package. Included within it was a provision that the FDA would have 180 days to raise the nationwide tobacco age to 21.

Then, over the weekend, the FDA just decided to act swiftly, and announced on its website that it intends for the ban on under-21s to come into force immediately:

It is now illegal for a retailer to sell any tobacco product – including cigarettes, cigars and e-cigarettes – to anyone under 21. FDA will provide additional details on this issue as they become available.

I’ve rarely smoked myself; I won’t miss them. I do feel a bit for however many 18- to 20-year-olds there are in the United States who are already hooked, and who suddenly will learn that they can no longer legally buy the product they’re addicted to.

But I’m also old enough to remember how it seemed that overnight, bars and restaurants began banning smoking.

When the entire country of Ireland banned smoking in pubs, I figured this was for real.

There are a lot of factors that drove the cultural change behind this. (Lawsuits, for one.)

But the point is, as we embark on a new decade, just how quickly things that seemed highly unlikely can change.

“The difficult we do right away,” someone once said. “The impossible takes a little longer.”

7 other things worth a click

  1. When 80 passengers were stranded at a Holiday Inn Express in Newfoundland & Labrador, the local community turned out to bring them a Christmas dinner. (CTV)

  2. Airport retail is booming. A big, obvious, but very good reason: more people are flying. (Adweek)

  3. How the “network gap” stops people from getting jobs. (CNBC)

  4. When U.S. companies force their employees to train foreign replacements. (Axios)

  5. Another sign of the times on the tobacco thing: Facebook and Instagram now ban influencers from pitching tobacco and vaping products. (Digiday)

  6. European researchers found they could improve middle schoolers’ math performance by getting them repeat “I will do my very best!” before taking tests. (me, on Inc.)

  7. Here’s my take on what makes a great icebreaker question. (me again, on Inc.)


Photo courtesy of my brother-and-sister-in-law. Ideas and feedback actively solicited.

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Paul is not dead.

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