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Canadian publisher axes Santa’s pipe from Christmas book; controversy ensues

A publisher has been accused of censorship after removing Santa's pipe from her Christmas book. (Pamela McColl …Oh Santa. The beloved round fellow who magically delivers gifts to millions of boys and girls around the world each Christmas Eve hardly seems like the sort of guy who needs to clean up his act. 

But one Canadian publisher thinks that Santa could be improved upon, and she's taken it upon herself to help him kick his nasty smoking habit.

Independent publisher and anti-smoking advocate Pamela McColl has revised the classic Twas the Night Before Christmas poem. You know the one — "The stockings were hung by the chimney with care, in case that St. Nicholas soon would be there." And so on.

It's a charming tale, but there is one line of the almost 200-year-old poem by Clement C. Moore that McColl took issue with.

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

Thanks to McColl's edits, that pipe is gone, and so is Santa's habit.

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"I'm a child advocate. I'm not a book burner," maintains McNoll. "I'm not telling people not to read books, and anyone is free to go out and buy one of the many other editions of this book. But smoking is going to kill one billion people in this century, and that needs to be discussed."

The book is published by Grafton and Scratch, and McColl tells the National Post that Indigo booksellers has also picked it up.

"I was looking for a project that would open the conversation about smoking prevention," says McNoll. "He's the most influential character of all. For a three-year-old, Santa is very real."

She says that for many children, their number one wish for Christmas is that their parents stop smoking.

"People are looking to Santa Claus to make that one wish come true. What are they going to do when they find out he smokes?"

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But many think that McNoll's change is far worse than a harmless edit. They say that her new edition is an example of political correctness taken to extremes.

"So much of censorship is motivated on the grounds that we're protecting children from concepts someone finds distasteful," Deborah Caldwell-Stone, deputy director of the American Library Association's Office for Intellectual Freedom tells the National Post.

"But there's many assumptions behind that — that one point is the correct viewpoint, that all parents buy into the same ideas. The bottom line is we're denying access to the author's original voice, denying the opportunity for the author's voice to be heard."

This isn't the first time the alteration of a classic text has caused an uproar. Last year an Alabama publisher came under fire after announcing plans to replace the N-word in a new edition of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn with the word "slave."

Would you purchase the revised edition of Twas the Night Before Christmas? Does this edit make sense, or does it go too far?

Watch the video below about graphic cigarette package labels that were approved in Australia this summer. 

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