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Happy Christmas: Santa censored and exploited as a smoking cessation aid

Scotland on Sunday yesterday reported that:

A new version of the famous Christmas poem, A Visit From St Nicholas, has taken out all references to Father Christmas smoking a pipe in an attempt to prevent children from taking up the habit.

The poem, originally written by Clement Moore in 1823, has been credited with creating the modern-day image of Santa Claus.

But the edited version by a Canadian author – which will be promoted in Scotland next year – cuts out lines which refer to Santa Claus being shrouded in smoke with a pipe between his teeth. An illustrator has also produced a series of images to go with the edited poem, none of which show Father Christmas holding a pipe.

According to the author, Pamela McColl:

“I edited this poem as studies out of the United States in the 1990s showed that the depiction of cartoon characters smoking influences young children ages 3-7 towards tobacco products,” she said.

Really? I would love to know how many children have started to smoke as a consequence of reading (or being read) a poem about Santa written in 1823.

There are 14 verses and 54 lines in A Visit From St Nicholas and only two of them refer to Santa's nicotine habit. They can be found deep within the poem, in verse eleven:

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.

Despite this and the fact that the lines no longer appear in the 'new' sanitised version, McColl says she intends to promote her book by visiting "smoking prevention agencies and public health associations” as well as libraries, distributors and booksellers when she visits Scotland in February.

Clearly, this is an exercise in smoking cessation and has nothing to do with poetry or Santa.

The newspaper report quotes several critics of the move, including me. Full story: Santa’s pipe dream up in smoke as tobacco ban on children’s classic derided

Anyway, this being Christmas Eve, I will leave you with the illustration that appeared on the 2010 Forest Christmas card. It was designed for us by Dan Donovan.

I hope you all have a very merry Christmas. I'll be back in a day or two, several pounds heavier no doubt.

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Reader Comments (6)

Anyone see the film In Bruges on TV last night? Included a warning to American tourists not to complain about people smoking in the smoking sections of Belgian bars.

Monday, December 24, 2012 at 12:46 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan Bagley

Yes Jonathan I saw - it gave me a warm glow all over. Great!

Monday, December 24, 2012 at 14:52 | Unregistered CommenterDennis

How many children start smoking with a PIPE?!?!?!

Monday, December 24, 2012 at 21:53 | Unregistered Commenterchris

'How many children start smoking with a PIPE?!?!?!'

Oddly enough, my oldest friend (sadly now deceased) used to tell a story about when his wife was at a well known public school back in the 1930's.
A group of girls agreed to steal a few of their fathers' cigarettes and smoke them behind the bushes. One or two even turned up with cigars, which was daring enough, but even they were topped by my friend's wife, who brought along her father's second best pipe and was calmly puffing away when the headmistress caught them.
If my friend's wife was any example, all went on to lead exemplary lives, beginning with WWII service, by the way.

Thursday, December 27, 2012 at 12:37 | Unregistered CommenterStuart Hartill

'How many children start smoking with a PIPE?!?!?!'

Well I did, along with a couple of friends. I can't remember exactly how old I was, but I think must have been about ten.

We had a cinema near us, which was very cheap to get into and used to show kid's films and even a serial. The cinema was such a dump that we used to call it the "Bughole".

Smoking was allowed in cinemas then of course, and every seat had a brass ashtray set between it and the next seat, which I noticed were always full to overflowing with cigarette butts.

I am not sure who amongst us developed this plan (probably me) but the next time we went to the Bughole, we took along clay bubble pipes with us. We then broke up the cigarette butts from the ashtrays and filled our pipes with the secondhand tobacco. Having done that all three of us settled back, lit our pipes and looked forward to a relaxing smoke.

A few minutes later, amidst clouds of smoke and a lot of coughing, we were ejected from the Bughole and told not to bring our pipes in there again.

I must admit, it wasn't exactly a nice experience, and it did put me off pipe smoking for the rest of my life.

Thursday, December 27, 2012 at 13:17 | Unregistered CommenterPeter Thurgood

Ha !! Peter T i like it. I used to chew Condor Bloody awful!! But us kids use to think we were tough. You never hear of chewing tobacco no more or do you ?

Friday, December 28, 2012 at 8:51 | Unregistered CommenterPeter James

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