"The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke, it encircled his head like a wreath"
Canadian publisher Pamela McColl released the bowdlerized poem through her own company, Grafton and Scratch.
Ms. McColl explains:
"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," she says. "I think these edits outweigh other considerations. If this text is to survive another 200 years it needs to modernise 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 honour Santa and this story is to make him smoke-free."
When my parents were kids, Santa didn't just smoke a pipe. Through the magic of big tobacco advertising, he also enjoyed promoting several brands of cigarettes:
I'd just like to add that I totally disagree with what Pamela McColl did to the old poem.
I am also very much anti-smoking, but I am also anti-censorship. Old works are expressions of their time, and they provide an opportunity to talk with kids about why certain things were considered okay in the past, and why they are not now. In my opinion, this helps prepare kids for a world in which "normal" is a constantly moving target. By sheltering them, you only make them believe that the world was always as it is now. And how are they supposed to cope with change then?