Cody Kiser and Carly Twisselman each aim to show rodeo fans, particularly the younger ones, chewing or using other forms of smokeless tobacco isn’t what makes them who they are. They promote the Foundation’s campaign which uses the slogan “Be Smart. Don’t Start.”
Their approach is anything but confrontational or aggressive. Rather than encouraging people to quit, they hope to encourage young fans to never pick up the habit in the first place. And where some rely on statistics to make the point, Kiser and Twisselman take a different approach. Simply giving attention to young rodeo fans is a big part of getting their message across.
“Its not the facts that they’re going to take home,” Kiser says. “Everybody knows that tobacco’s bad; you can get cancer and you can die. But the biggest impact that I see is just acknowledging those kids or acknowledging those people in the audience that want to know more, and you can show them what you can do without tobacco.”
“I’m not out there to tell anybody how to live their life or preach to them about needing to quit,” Kiser says.
“It’s not our place to do that,” Twisselman says. “People most of the time aren’t going to listen when you tell them something like that anyway.”
The pair will be wearing Oral Cancer Foundation gear and handing out buttons, wristbands and bandanas bearing campaign messaging.
As they travel the rodeo circuit, Kiser and Twisselman each say they often see other riders use various types of smokeless tobacco such as chew and snuff.
“It’s very common,” says Kiser. “You see it everywhere.”
“One of my traveling partners, he started when he was in high school. He was just around it all the time,” says Kiser. “It was just the ‘cowboy’ thing to do, I guess.”
“A lot of people are very respectful about it,” Twisselman says. “They’ll see me in my shirt and be like ‘oh yeah, you represent the Oral Cancer Foundation’ and they’ll spit their chew out. I think that in itself is a positive side effect of it.”
“I think a large part of a lot of these cowboys is, it’s the cowboy thing to do, so they start doing it,” Kiser says. “And that’s where I want to step in and show the younger generation that you don’t have to chew to be a cowboy. You can be a cowboy athlete and not chew and treat your body as best you can, because what we do is very difficult and it’s hard on the body.”
“A lot of folks started when they young,” Kiser says. “And I’ve talked to guys who started chewing later in life and they can’t quit, or it’s hard for them. It’s a vicious thing.”
*This news story was resourced by the Oral Cancer Foundation, and vetted for appropriateness and accuracy.