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Santa butts out: Christmas classic gets a non-smoking revision

(Image courtesy Pam McColl/twasthenightbeforechristmas.ca)James Dean glamourized smoking. Santa Claus… maybe a little less so.

But the image of old St. Nick puffing away on his corncob pipe was enough for a Vancouver publisher to yank all vestiges of carcinogenic activity from her recently released version of 'Twas The Night Before Christmas".

As the Vancouver Sun reports, Pam McColl decided the lines: "The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth/And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath" no longer belonged in the holiday classic.

A longtime anti-smoking activist, McColl had been searching for the right platform to filter out her message. She hit her local library to conduct some research.

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"I was flipping through these children's anthologies, and there were lots of smoking rabbits and bears and such. But none of them really grabbed me," McColl told the paper.

"But then I came across a copy of 'Twas The Night Before Christmas… And I went, 'Oh, wow!' There on the page was Santa. And the biggest icon of the holiday season was smoking!"

McColl said she experienced a "eureka" moment and decided to revise the beloved poem for a 21st century audience of health conscious children conscious of the dangers of smoking.

Committed to her goal, she remortgaged her home to finance the book's publication.

In the new version, all illustrations feature a non-smoking version of Santa, who, on the book's dust jacket, also expresses his commitment to the animal kingdom.

"The reindeer also asked that I confirm that I have only ever worn faux fur out of respect for the endangered species that are in need of our protection," writes activist St. Nick.

Naturally, the move has enflamed Christmas purists, who consider her actions akin to holiday blasphemy, rooted in more PC buzz kill than a million stockings full of coal.

On the extreme end, she's received threats to her earthly existence. One angry individual went so far as to suggest a nice Christmas wreath to decorate her grave.

Her supporters have argued that the book has shone a virtual klieg light on just how prevalent smoking still is in popular culture and applauded the attention she's brought to the issue.

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Speaking of attention, the media frenzy surrounding McColl's move has resulted in digital sales of 75,000 copies since September alone.

Clearly her investment has paid off. And parents who share her beliefs now have a smoke-free alternative to read to their children come December 24.

It's also important to remember that the revised version of 'Twas The Night Before Christmas is not mandatory reading and has not replaced the countless versions that feature Santa and his pipe perfectly intact.

That's the beauty of choice.