Santa Kicks the Habit


A new edition of the classic children’s book, Twas The Night Before Christmas, is being released amidst controversy. Child advocate Pamela McColl has edited out references of Santa smoking a pipe, something he has been doing for 189 years. This edit raises the question: Are we compelled to alter a best-selling institution, especially when in doing so may save lives?

“The intent of the edit is to secure the future of the most famous poem in the English language and to put a spotlight on what can be done to help prevent youth from taking up smoking,” says McColl. “The poem has had a “haircut” in order for it not to become obsolete.” The deleted verse is as follows:

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

“In a world that understands the inherent dangers of nicotine, limiting children’s exposure to this addictive drug is a positive, preventive step,” says McColl.

Her book has already generated major media in her homeland of Canada, including The National Post.

It was in response to alarming numbers that McColl took action:

  • 88% of adult cigarette smokers who smoke daily, report they started smoking by the age of 18.
  • Each day in the U.S. 3,800 young people under age 18 become daily cigarette smokers.
  • “We need a social cure, a commitment at all levels: parental, governmental, media, corporate, and consumer to rid ourselves of the scourge of smoking,” says McColl, who took up smoking as a teenager but managed to quit years later.

    McColl’s goals and message are quite clear:

  • To advocate for changes that better protect children against the dangers of smoking.
  • To make parents, grandparents, and teachers more aware of the influence on children of smoking depictions in our media, books, movies, videos, television and entertainment.
  • To join the call for legal reforms and peer pressure to limit children’s exposure to images of smoking.
  • “The omission of these few words do not change the material intent of the author nor do they infringe on the reader’s understanding or enjoyment of the story,” adds McColl. “I think these edits outweigh other considerations. The best way to honor Santa and this story is to make him smoke-free.”

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