Santa Quits Smoking In New Edition
Of Best-Selling Christmas Classic
A new edition of the timeless classic children’s book, Twas The Night Before Christmas, is being released amidst controversy. The version being published by child advocate Pamela McColl has edited out references of Santa smoking a pipe. It raises the question: Should we alter a best-selling institution under any circumstances, even when doing so may save lives? It also puts a spotlight on the prevention of smoking by our nation’s youth.
The crisis of youth smoking led to the issuance of the first US Surgeon General’s report on the subject in several decades this past March. It highlights the core of the problem:
· 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 18 years of age become daily cigarette smokers.
· Tobacco is the leading cause of preventable and premature death, killing an estimated 443,000 Americans each year.
· One in 5 people are current smokers.
· Cigarette smoking costs the nation $96 billion in direct medical costs and $97 billion in lost productivity annually.
It was in response to these alarming numbers that McColl took action. “We need a cultural movement and a commitment at all levels: parental, governmental, media, corporate, and consumer in order to rid ourselves of the scourge of smoking,” says McColl, who took up smoking as a teenager but managed to quit several years later.
“I sometimes say that this edition of the poem has had a “haircut” to modernize it in order to keep it going for generations to come and to not become obsolete,” says McColl. “Some people will say things like “We shouldn’t muck around with the classics,” but for a three-year-old this jolly elf is a real dude coming down the chimney and there is nothing historical about it. One cannot underestimate the power and influence of Santa. Remember he decides who’s naughty or nice – presents or not. So if kids see him smoking they are picking up the wrong impression.” Research shows Santa’s power to influence is still ahead of all other characters presented to children including Ronald McDonald.
The classic tale, now in the public domain, spent 36 weeks on the New York Times children’s best-seller list in 2011, and for nearly 200 years since it was published as a poem in a local newspaper, it has been read by generations of children, becoming the most popular holiday tale ever. The book’s original publishing in 1823 actually influenced significant changes to people’s perceptions of Santa and how the holiday was to be celebrated. It has shaped our modern-day views of the fat, jolly Santa and his eight reindeer. None of McColl’s edits impact the story and they not radical. Further, she didn’t change any words or add any words. Still, should we be tinkering with it?
“There are no issues of censorship or banning of books here,” stresses McColl. “I have edited out a few words and lines that reference Santa smoking and removed the cover illustration of his pipe. 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 this historically-rich story, but by removing these words we may save lives and avoid influencing new smokers. I think these edits outweigh other considerations. If this text is to survive another 200 years it needs to modernize and reflect today’s realities. I want children to celebrate the spirit of giving and to reflect proudly on the holiday traditions that shape their childhood, and the best way to honor Santa and this story is to make him smoke-free.”
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 call for legal reforms and peer pressure to limit children’s exposure to images of smoking.
· To educate children on the true nature of the addictive drug that tobacco is.
· To help parents protect their children from becoming addicted to nicotine.
McColl notes that in her review of other children’s books there are numerous references to smoking. Papa Bear in the Three Bears smokes, The Pink Panther smokes. The man in the yellow hat smokes around Curious George. Frosty the Snowman has a pipe. She would like to see this change.
“I want to see books with depictions of smoking in children’s libraries to have warnings or a sticker so that parents know before they open the pages,” says McColl. “It isn’t censorship – it is awareness.
Twas The Night Before Christmas was originally published in 1823 as a poem in the Troy Sentinel, an upstate New York newspaper, anonymously. The poem was published as a result of the author’s family sending it in to the paper without his knowledge. The author, Clement Moore, a member of the NY Historical Society, reluctantly admitted to writing it 15 years later. The esteemed professor of theology thought his poem, intended only to delight his six kids, was beneath his pedigree and feared being mocked for his playful story. Instead, the poem has been hailed by scholars and critics as the most famous poem in American history. Indeed, it is a staple of our culture and holiday lore, as it has transformed how we view Santa and celebrate Christmas.
“We need to get to kids before the tobacco industry does,” says McColl, justifying why she removed some words and lines such as “the stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth, And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.”
“The path to smoking addiction starts at a very young age,” she says. “We should intervene now so that society can do all that it can to help our youth stay tobacco-free. This new edition of the classic poem stays true to the spirit of the original by Moore with the exception of a few changes that were done out of care for the youngest of readers.”
McColl issues a “Letter from Santa” in her book that informs adults that “In this updated edition select lines have quietly slipped from the pages. Here at the North Pole we decided to leave all of that old tire business of smoking well behind us in the 19th century and I am pleased to report that we have never been healthier or happier. The reindeer asked that I confirm the fact that I have only ever worn faux (fake) fur out of respect for the endangered species that are in need of our protection, including my dear friends those arctic polar bears.”
And, now as a result of some changes, some readers will breathe a little easier.
Published September 4th, 2012 by Grafton and Scratch Publishers
Hardcover $16.95 ISBN: 978-0-9879023-0-6
Paperback $8.95 ISBN: 978-0-9879023-1-3
E-Book $9.95 Nook ISBN: 978-0-9879023-3-7
Kindle Fire 978-0-9879023-4-4
Apple ibook enhanced 978-0-9879023-2-0 (with audio and interaction)
Author: Clement C. Moore
Illustrations: Elena Almazona and Vitaly Shvarov
Edited By: Pamela McColl and Santa Claus
Tags: surgeon general's report on youth and smoking