Tom's Last Cigarette

Toons go cold turkey


In the 1950 Tom and Jerry short Texas Tom, the cartoon's feline star tries to impress a female cat by rolling, lighting, and smoking a cigarette with a single paw. More than half a century later, Tom's smoky come-on prompted a British viewer to complain to Ofcom, the U.K.'s equivalent of the Federal Communications Commission. The same viewer also was offended by the 1949 short Tennis Chumps, in which Tom plays tennis with a cigar-smoking opponent.

In response to these two complaints by one viewer, Turner Broadcasting has pledged to excise every positive depiction of smoking from its library of Hanna-Barbera cartoons, a bowdlerization the company described as "a voluntary step we've taken in light of the changing times." The company plans to search each episode of Tom and Jerry, The Flintstones, Scooby-Doo, and every other Hanna-Barbera product for what Ofcom called "any scenes or references where smoking appeared to be condoned, acceptable, glamorized or where it might encourage imitation."

That does not necessarily mean the shows will be entirely smoke-free. Villains might be allowed to light up, for instance. Presumably exploding cigars also will be permitted when dramatically justified.