Santa quits smoking

QMI Agency
Toronto artist Kim Fernandes' artwork for the book A Visit From St. Nicholas. (Supplied photo)

Toronto artist Kim Fernandes' artwork for the book A Visit From St. Nicholas. (Supplied photo)

Santa has quit smoking.

At least he has in a new Canadian version of Twas the Night Before Christmas edited "for the benefit of children of the 21st century" and released this month.

"Exposure to the depiction of Santa smoking a pipe cannot be good," said Pamela McColl, an anti-smoking advocate who calls nicotine addiction "a pediatric disease" for which "prevention must start early."

The offending verse of the 1823 poem attributed to Clement C. Moore, also called A Visit from St. Nicholas, is: "The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth, and the smoke, it encircled his head like a wreath."

"In light of the science and studies about the harmful influence of characters smoking on young readers we have taken out the depictions of Santa with a pipe," says the description of the book from McColl's Vancouver-based independent publishing company, Grafton and Scratch.

Reaction on Twitter was mostly incredulous and called it political correctness gone mad.

"I hate when people mess with books," Chantal Saville wrote.

"This whole being offended over everything getting nuts. Santa can't smoke a pipe because it makes kids want to smoke," Jon-Paul posted.

Though Christianne called it "a more humane and healthy take" on the classic.

While some people object to any revisions to books to reflect modern attitudes, McColl, who is active in the Smoke Free Movies campaign, says it's time readers had an alternate version of Twas "in the interest of protecting young readers."

So far, no one has addressed Santa's obesity or propensity for staying up all night.

The book is available in hardcover and ebook editions in English, French and Spanish.