By The Oral Cancer Foundation
The traditional image of the American cowboy is one of strength, rugged determination and courage. In the world of professional rodeo competition, that image is no different. Cowboys—and increasingly so cowgirls—are held in esteem and looked at as heroes by young and old alike. The power of the cowboy as a compelling figure has not gone unnoticed by the tobacco industry, whose marketing campaigns have sought to tie the ideals of the cowboy with the use of their products. The western/rodeo environment in the US has had a long-term relationship with tobacco, and until 2009 The Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) and the rodeos that they sanctioned had a lengthy history of tobacco money funding the sport. While that has ended at PRCA events, tobacco use and smokeless/spit tobaccos are still popular within the sport.
The Oral Cancer Foundation (OCF) believes that in order to solve problems you must engage the problem at the source. As a small and growing non-profit, OCF is not afforded the luxury of relying on conventional methods of outreach utilized by larger, more established charities. To enact meaningful change and bring awareness to the public, OCF must employ ingenuity and creativity to address the problems at hand. Within the world of professional rodeo, that problem remains to be the glorification and pervasive use of tobacco products amongst athletes and fans. The Oral Cancer Foundation is the first non-profit charity to ever sponsor a rodeo competitor, and in doing so is able to introduce a new type of role model into the rodeo world.
In 2014 OCF partnered with Cody Kiser, a young, personable, up and coming bareback bronc rider to promote the foundation’s anti-tobacco campaign. As a spokesperson for the foundation Cody hopes to serve as a positive role model for children and teens that look up to cowboys as their heroes in the rodeo world. Research shows that as many as 15% of high school boys use smokeless tobacco in the United States. 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, which is why The Oral Cancer Foundation hopes to educate parents and youth about the dangers before they even get started.
On June 11th Cody attended the Montana High School Rodeo Association’s (MHSRA), reACT Tobacco Free Rodeo Finals, inKalispell, MT, speaking to youth and their parents. ReACT Tobacco Free Rodeo is a campaign sponsored by the Montana Tobacco Use Prevention Program empowering teens to take a stand against tobacco and honoring rodeo athletes who pledge to live tobacco free. This year reACT awarded five MHSRA Seniors with $5,000 scholarships towards their college educations, and 14 high-scoring student athletes received breast collars in recognition of their achievements and commitments to living tobacco free.
As motivational speaker, Cody discussed how Rodeo culture has been inundated by tobacco companies, and how this is a new generation that can make a difference by taking a stand against tobacco companies that use the country way of life to market a deadly product. The forty-five minute presentation focused on how living a tobacco-free lifestyle has assisted Cody in making good choices and accomplishing his dreams. Cody stressed to the teens in attendance that they each had a choice, and in choosing to live tobacco free they also had the power to fulfill their own dreams and enact meaningful change.
While adults certainly have the right to make any lifestyle choice they desire, they inadvertently expose impressionable young people to what are sometimes harmful habits through poor examples like the use of tobacco products. This is particularly harmful as kids look up to athletes, not just in rodeo, but major league baseball and elsewhere, as heroes that they aspire to be like. Unfortunately, no hero is ever perfect. OCF uses its Rodeo Campaign to put alternative role models out in the world of rodeo cowboy athletes, with the intention of reaching young people before they make addictive choices that will harm them later in life. The foundation’s message is simple and straightforward: Be Smart. Don’t Start.
About the Oral Cancer Foundation
The Oral Cancer Foundation, founded by oral cancer survivor Brian R. Hill, is an IRS registered non-profit 501(c)(3) public service charity that provides information, patient support, sponsorship of research, and advocacy related to this disease. Oral cancer is the largest group of those cancers that fall into the head and neck cancer category. Common names for it include such things as mouth cancer, tongue cancer, head and neck cancer, and throat cancer. OCF maintains a web site at http://www.oralcancer.org, which receives millions of hits per month. Supporting the foundation’s goals is a scientific advisory board composed of leading cancer authorities from varied medical and dental specialties, and from prominent educational, treatment, and research institutions in the United States
SOURCE Oral Cancer Foundation