Smoking ban hits Tom 'n' Jerry

Key quote "To me it's political correctness gone mad. If you're really going to be concerned about children taking something up perhaps Ofcom could look at Tom dropping an anvil on Jerry's head or putting Jerry in an egg slicer. " - Adrian Monck, media analyst

Story in full TOM and Jerry can flatten each other with anvils and batter themselves senseless with mallets, but censors have drawn a line when it comes to watching the cartoon cat and mouse enjoy a cigarette.

Following a single complaint to the media watchdog Ofcom, scenes showing characters smoking in the classic cartoons are being cut.

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Similar scenes in other cartoons including The Flintstones and Scooby Doo are also destined for the cutting room floor.

The censorship, which was described by one media commentator as "patronising", was prompted after a viewer contacted Ofcom to complain about cartoons broadcast on the children's channel Boomerang, saying they were not appropriate for young viewers.

In one Oscar-winning episode, Texas Tom, Tom is seen rolling a cigarette, lighting it and smoking it in a bid to impress a female cat. In Tennis Champs, Tom's opponent in a tennis match was seen smoking a large cigar.

Ofcom investigated the complaint and the channel agreed to cut scenes in future which glamorise or condone smoking.

Ofcom said: "We recognise that these are historic cartoons, most of them having been produced in the 40s, 50s, 60s, at a time when smoking was more generally accepted.

"We note that, in Tom and Jerry, smoking usually appears in a stylised manner and is frequently not condoned.

"However, while we appreciate the historic integrity of the animation, the level of editorial justification required for the inclusion of smoking in such cartoons is necessarily high."

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Boomerang, part of Turner Broadcasting, has an audience made up predominantly of children - 56 per cent of viewers are aged four to 14.

The Turner company has agreed to review its archive material and edit scenes or references where smoking is glamorised or might encourage imitation. Smoking scenes which do not appear to condone the habit may be left uncut.

The company is also planning to edit out smoking scenes from classic Hanna Barbera cartoons including Scooby Doo, The Jetsons and The Flintstones.

Last night, media analyst Adrian Monck said: "To me it's political correctness gone mad. If you're really going to be concerned about children taking something up perhaps Ofcom could look at Tom dropping an anvil on Jerry's head or putting Jerry in an egg slicer. It's actually very patronising. Children are well able to discern that there is not anything cool about a cartoon cat doing something. It's mad to think they would even think of imitating what they see. If that was the case the streets of Scotland would be full of children acting out scenes from the cartoons.

"Of course parents are right to be concerned about what children see on television. Violence impacts negatively but it's just plain silly to think children will be running around copying what they see on screen."

Neil Rafferty, of Forest, the smokers' rights group, said Ofcom's decision set a dangerous precedent.

"Yes, smoking is bad for you and the issue needs to be addressed. But the more you make something like smoking illicit and taboo, the greater the likelihood of youngsters taking it up as a way of rebelling.

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"Ofcom may not have noticed but Tom and Jerry is insanely violent. But instead of mentioning this, they are picking on cigarettes. If we start censoring old cartoons because they have a cat smoking in them it will merely create an completely unrealistic world for children."

Fiona Hyslop, SNP education spokeswoman and mother of three young children, said: "My brother's called Tom and when we were young we played at Tom and Jerry. I was always Jerry because he was the smart one.

"Any five-year-old could tell you Tom will always get his comeuppance. If my children saw Tom smoking in a cartoon they'd just think he was a stupid cat. Anyone who knows the cartoon knows Tom is the one who does daft things and would not want to identify with him."

Tom and Jerry, created, written and directed by animators William Hanna and Joseph Barbera, was first censored in 1965 when it appeared on CBS Saturday morning television.

Mammy Two-Shoes, the black housekeeper, was rotoscoped out and replaced with a thin white woman. Scenes of extreme violence were also removed.

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