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Blowing Smoke? Classic Russian Cartoon May Become Victim Of New Law

Smoke 'em if you got 'em
Smoke 'em if you got 'em
The classic Soviet-era children's cartoon "Nu, pogodi!" features a hapless wolf trying to catch a crafty rabbit, sort of like Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner from those old Looney Tunes shorts.

But just imagine Wile E. Coyote with a lit cigarette dangling from his lips. Or 10 cigarettes at the same time. That will give you an idea of the dilemma facing broadcasters in today's Russia.

Longtime fans of "Nu, pogodi!" -- which translates to "Well, Just You Wait!" -- are dismayed at the news that it may be relegated to late-night time slots due to the prodigious tobacco use by its star. A new law aimed at protecting children under the age of 18 from programming featuring drinking, smoking, or drug use comes into force on September 1.

The Russian news agency Interfax quotes an official at TMK media company -- which owns the rights to "Nu, pogodi!" -- as saying the scenes of tobacco by its lupine hooligan would either have to be edited out of the cartoon or else shown after 11 p.m.

WATCH: A smoking scene from "Nu, pogodi!"

"Nu, pogodi!" -- created in 1969 -- isn't the only Soviet-era show potentially affected by the new rules. Another cartoon, called "Cheburashka," features a beneficent pipe-smoking crocodile.

WATCH: Gena, the pipe-smoking crocodile

In an e-mail interview with "The Moscow Times," Aleksei Kotyonochkin -- the son of the creator of "Nu, pogodi!" -- objected to the initiative, saying, “I don't like all these attempts to 'edit' or 'regulate' our cultural heritage, which undoubtedly includes 'Nu, pogodi!'"

He also suggested that the new law signaled the end of an era, according to "The Moscow Times":

“Well, Wolf, you old smoker, goodbye.... You lived a worthy life, 40-plus years. Millions of children laughed thanks to you. You brought smiles and joy,” he wrote on his LiveJournal blog earlier this month.

RIA Novosti, however, quotes Maksim Ksenzov, the deputy chief of Russia's Federal Mass Media Inspection Service, as suggesting that "Nu, pogodi!" is a "piece of art that has cultural value" and that it may be ruled exempt from the new law.

The website for the Russian state TV news channel Vesti quotes the president of TMK, Aleksandr Mitroshenkov, as saying that "Nu, pogodi!" and "Cheburashka" will be shown -- uncut -- as part of the 50th anniversary season of "Goodnight, Kids!" programming in the early evenings.

"We are not going to cut one single cigarette or pipe out. Everything will be aired as is," Mitroshenkov said.

A 2010 survey by the World Health Organziation (WHO) found that some 44 million Russians -- or 40 percent of its population -- smoke. That's the largest percentage among 14 countries deemed to "bear the highest burden of tobacco use." The WHO found that 60 percent of Russian men and 22 percent of Russian women were smokers.

No word on whether depictions of coyotes misusing anvils will be next on the to-be-banned list.

-- Grant Podelco

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