SALT LAKE CITY -- Oral cancer is becoming an epidemic in the U.S., and has been in the news in the last year with the loss of major league baseball hall-of-famer, Tony Gwynn, who died at 54 from smokeless tobacco use.
Rodeo has a historic tie to smokeless tobaccos, and Oral Cancer Foundation, has teamed up with Bareback Rider Cody Kiser to draw awareness to, and prevent, this growing epidemic where it thrives – the rodeo circuit.
Smokeless/spit tobacco is one of the historic causes of deadly oral cancers, and is more addictive than other forms of tobacco use.
The nonprofit is seeking to spread awareness of oral cancer and the dangers of starting terrible tobacco habits. While others are focused on getting users to quit, The Oral Cancer Foundation is reaching out to young people to not pick up the habit that they may see one of their rodeo “heroes" engage in.
Their message is simple, "Be Smart. Don’t Start."
With the strong addictive powers of smokeless tobacco, the foundation and Kiser aim to engage fans early.
At the rodeos, Kiser will be solely wearing OCF logos and wording, while handing out buttons, wristbands and bandanas with the campaign messaging on them. The bareback rider hopes this will make him an alternative positive role-model for the adolescent age group whose minds are so easily molded.
“It’s something I’ve always been passionate about, so when I got into the partnership with OCF, it was no big deal to be able to say ‘I don’t smoke or chew, never have, and it’s easy not to,'" Kiser said.
Kiser added it all starts with kids.
"Most of these guys I ride with started smoking and chewing in sixth or seventh grade," he said. "So, if we can get to those kids now, and tell them ‘you don’t have to do this to be cool or be a cowboy’ and show them what you can do without it."
More information on the campaign can be found at www.oralcancer.org