A cowboy stands against smoking
Above: Cody Kiser holds on as his bronco goes wild during the Sanders County Fair rodeo; Kiser has teamed up with the Oral Cancer Foundation to raise awareness of the dangers of tobacco products through the rodeo.
PLAINS – Tobacco use has been a big part of the rodeo for years; one participant of the Sanders County Fair is in the forefront of changing this, though, by promoting a tobacco-less lifestyle through the sport.
Cody Kiser, a cowboy who rode bareback broncos at the Fair, has teamed up with the Oral Cancer Foundation’s ‘Be Smart, Don’t Start’ campaign to help teach kids about the dangers of tobacco products and oral cancer. According to their website, the campaign is part of the foundation’s rodeo outreach and attempting to “become engaged where the problem lives.”
“While other [groups] 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 engaging in,” stated information provided by the OFC.
To help with this, Kiser and the foundation have been working to present role models within the rodeo world who do not use tobacco products and actively advocate against their use.
“How do you change that?” Kiser asked, regarding the tobacco-use culture. “I think that is in kids; you have to get to the kids and get their opinions changed.”
The foundation’s main focus has been on reaching out to middle school and high school students, though getting their message to any kid is helpful. They try to inform the kids of the dangers of tobacco products, with a particular emphasis on chewing tobacco, which is heavily linked to developing oral cancer.
“We’re not here to tell anybody how to live their life or anything, if they’re already chewing or smoking,” said Kiser. “Just give information … and hope we reach out to the kids. That’s the main thing.”
During the Sanders County Fair rodeo, Kiser only wore sponsorship logos for the OCF. He also took time to talk to kids at the fair and give out pins, bandanas as well as other items with the foundation’s message on them.
It was noted there are other rodeo riders who do not smoke or chew tobacco, though it is rare. This has been turning around in recent years, though, and there are organizations promoting tobacco-free rodeos, where only people who do not use tobacco products participate. Other organizations, like Project Filter and reACT, are also working to educate kids about tobacco use through the rodeo.
“There are groups who are doing this now,” Kiser said. “It’s not just us … There is some move towards it. It’s in its infancy right now, but there people who are doing stuff.”
He also recalled a number of athletes had used tobacco products and reported regretting it later in life; some hall of famers have said they would do things differently, in regards to tobacco use, if they could go back. The main goal of the OCF and its ‘Be Smart, Don’t Start’ campaign has been to help kids avoid having those regrets.
The foundation hopes to set up public speaking arrangements at schools for Kiser and their other ambassadors in the near future, though for now their outreach is limited to rodeos. Going directly to the schools would help them reach out to kids more and spread their message further.
Tobacco use is strongly linked to oral cancer, which has several severe impacts on the body; everything from losing teeth to serious oral sores or even death. The effects do not stop at a personal level either and can spill over to other people’s lives as well.
According to the OFC, approximately 46,000 people are diagnosed with oral cancer each year. This translates to almost 115-120 people diagnosed each day.
More information on the Oral Cancer Foundation can be found at www.oralcancer.org.
*This news story was resourced by the Oral Cancer Foundation, and vetted for appropriateness and accuracy.