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There arose such a clatter over pipe-free Santa

By LEANNE ITALIE Associated Press

Publication: The Day

Published December 16. 2012 4:00AM

Santa has kicked the habit in time for Christmas. No, not the sugar plum habit, or his fur-wearing habit.

No, this is the year the man in red gave up pipe tobacco, at least in a new book version of "Twas the Night Before Christmas" that has received attention from the American Library Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics. The self-published Pamela McColl of Vancouver, Canada, has a mission for her story, to protect children and their parents from the ravages of smoking. She mortgaged her house and sunk $200,000 into her telling of the 189-year-old holiday poem, touring the states to promote it ahead of its September release.

McColl excised these lines: "The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth. And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath."

And she included a letter from Santa on the back jacket flap announcing that "all of that old tired business of smoking" is behind him.

"There is a huge debate raging," McColl said. "I have been called every name in the book. One person said the only wreath they want to see this Christmas is one on my grave. Shame, shame, shame on you is the most common."

The 54-year-old entrepreneur and mother of adult twins said she's on Santa's case about smoking because she has seen firsthand how harmful it can be, recalling how at age 18 she had to pull her own father out of his burning bed after he fell asleep with a lit cigarette. She smoked herself as a teen but quit and is thankful her kids never took up the habit.

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