The number of oral cancer deaths related to tobacco use is on the rise nationwide according to the Oral Cancer Foundation. Brian Hill is the founder of the OCF and a survivor of the disease.
Cody Kiser encourages the youth to not start using tobacco to help secure good health. Oral Cancer Foundation
“Up until about (the year) 2000 this was primarily a disease of older men who had smoked a lot or chewed tobacco during their lifetime,” Hill said. “About that point in time we started to see a shift in the cause of the disease.”
Hill said tobacco is still a primary cause of oral cancers and adds that the oral human papillomavirus type 16 (HPV16) is new etiology that has forced the number of cases to accelerate.
According to an October 2014 study by Johns Hopkins researchers the HPV16 causes cancers of the mouth and throat and that any form of tobacco use increases the risk of the virus. The research suggests as few as three cigarettes a day can increase the risk of infection by almost one-third.
Hill created the foundation in 1999 to promote change by educating the public about risk factors that contribute to the disease. Among those risks is the use of spit tobacco.
“The world of rodeo has been the realm of sponsorship by the tobacco industry for decades,” Hill said. “With the nicotine content in a can of dip equaling approximately that of 80 cigarettes, this addiction can be one of the hardest to break. We hope to educate parents and youth about the dangers before they even get started.”
The OCF is turning to professional rodeo competitors to serve as positive role models during a national campaign.
Cody Kiser is a professional bareback bronc rider from Reno, Nevada. He was in Delta, Utah recently where he competed at the Millard County Fairgrounds. Kiser told parents at the rodeo that nearly 15 percent of high school boys in the United States use smokeless tobacco.
“My dad was a cowboy, so I know what it’s like looking up to cowboys as heroes for my whole life. Health and fitness have always been incredibly important to my family. My dad was a positive role model in my life growing up in that regard, and the idea of using spit tobacco never appealed to me,” Kiser said. “Right now, I’m pursuing rodeo as a passion of mine, and if at the same time I can do some good in the world and set the right example for young kids who might look up to me, then I’m honored and eager to do so.”
Kiser said cowboys have a reputation that is second only to baseball players for being users of tobacco in the world of sports. He wants to change that reputation throughout the country and in Utah, where rodeo is popular.
“From my point of view, Utah seems to be on the front lines of health and fitness,” he said. “I’ve been very impressed with Utah as far as a healthy lifestyle, people who don’t smoke and chew so it’s good to see in Utah that they don’t do that as much.”
*This news story was resourced by the Oral Cancer Foundation, and vetted for appropriateness and accuracy.