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Oklahoman James Capps Wins Cliff Niles Award at
7th National Smokeless/Spit Tobacco Summit
Cherokee Nation education group that includes Stilwell Mayor Ronnie Trentham, a six-time
cancer survivor, also receives honor at annual summit, held this year in Montana.
OKLAHOMA CITY (Aug. 27, 2013) – Two Oklahoma cancer survivors were recently honored as part of efforts to educate on the dangers of tobacco use at the 7th National Smokeless and Spit Tobacco Summit. James Capps, Atoka resident and tobacco-caused cancer survivor, won the Cliff Niles Creative Media Award and the Tobacco Tour, a tobacco education effort of the Cherokee Nation Comprehensive Cancer Control Program, received the Buck Tobacco Sponsorship Award.
Stilwell Mayor Ronnie Trentham, a former smokeless tobacco user and six-time survivor of cancers in the mouth and jaw, is part of the Tobacco Tour efforts based in Tahlequah and Stilwell.
This national media award was established this year in remembrance of Cliff Niles, an Oklahoma native dedicated to educating youth about smokeless tobacco and tobacco marketing. Niles died in February after battling cancer due to his previous smokeless tobacco use.
As the first winner of the Niles Award, Capps received recognition for his story featured in a Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust’s state-wide Tobacco Stops With Me campaign which highlights the hazards of spit tobacco use for Oklahomans.
“James’ story is an Oklahoma story. It is personal and it is one that many in our state can relate to,” said Tracey Strader, executive director of TSET. “Telling James’s story is important because thousands of others from around the state are making decisions about tobacco every day. In just a few short months, his story has inspired many Oklahomans to quit. This award was well-deserved.”
Capps’ story centers on his decades-long use of spit tobacco while living the “cowboy” lifestyle in southeastern Oklahoma. He acknowledges that he knew the risks of getting cancer, but he felt that’s what every good Oklahoma cowboy did.
“I thought dipping snuff was the way to fit in,” Capps said when interviewed at the conference. “I believe everybody knows there’s a chance (of getting cancer), but the key thing is: It will never happen to me. Now, I know that cowboys get cancer too.”
Originally filmed as a testimonial for the StopsWithMe.com website, the popularity of Capps’ story led to its expansion into television/cable, print, radio and billboard advertising, as well as social media postings. Calls to the Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline from both smokeless tobacco users and smokers increased 51 percent in the first two weeks of the media campaign. Additionally, in the first two weeks of the campaign, the number of smokeless tobacco users increased exponentially with more than 200 calls for spit tobacco alone.
His story might have remained unknown if it weren’t for his teenage daughter, Kaylee. She asked him to share his story with Students Working Against Tobacco, a student group working for tobacco education/prevention as a part of a TSET grant with the Atoka/Coal Partnership for Change.
“We are so happy that Mr. Capps received this award. He has been such an inspiration to our community and we couldn’t be more proud of him,” said Amber Gammon, Communities of Excellence Program Coordinator.
Capps received the Cliff Niles Creative Media Award in Missoula, Mont., where summit organizers also honored members of the Cherokee Nation Comprehensive Cancer Control Program with the Buck Tobacco Sponsorship Award. The four-member group, “Tobacco Tour” have educated and entertained thousands of young people, primarily in 14 northeast Oklahoma counties, about the dangers of using commercial tobacco. The Tobacco Tour, which reportedly has reached about 10,000 young people since starting in November 2008, includes Trentham.
“Every time I get to go and share the message and keep somebody from using that stuff, it really gives me the sense of, ‘Hey, I’m helping prevent someone from going through what I went through,” Trentham said. “Winning the award has heightened the awareness of our program and allows us to get our word out more.”
The Tobacco Tour includes Greg Bilby, the Cherokee Nation public health educator and tour originator, Cherokee storyteller Robert Lewis and Guinness Book 15-time world record-holder Brian Jackson, often called the “I Believe Guy.” Trentham follows Lewis and Jackson’s captivating stories and feats by sharing his own story and letting kids examine his scars close up.
“This really is a team effort,” Trentham said. “We try to involve the kids and get their interest piqued, and let them know that the choices kids make can affect them for the rest of their lives.”
About the Cliff Niles Creative Media Award
The Cliff Niles Creative Media Award is presented to an individual or organization that has produced exceptional advertising media to promote smokeless or spit tobacco prevention and/or cessation. The award was named after Oklahoma native and tobacco prevention expert, Tommy “Cliff” Niles. Niles, a former spit tobacco user, went on to work for the Oklahoma State Department of Health as an authority on tobacco marketing with a specialty in the tobacco industry’s marketing to teenagers. Niles died in 2013 as the result of kidney cancer, a cancer commonly associated with spit tobacco use.
About the Buck Tobacco Sponsorship Award
The Buck Tobacco Sponsorship Award is presented to an individual or organization that has worked to eliminate or restrict smokeless tobacco promotion in their community. This award was inspired by the work of the Buck Tobacco Sponsorship Project, which started in California in 2002 and moved to the national level in 2005. The program has spearheaded education, advocacy, and policy change related to smokeless tobacco sponsorship of rodeos.
TSET is a grant making state agency that funds the Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline, public education campaigns to improve health and grants to communities, statewide organizations, and research institutions. The TSET Board of Directors’ strategic plan focuses on reducing cancer and cardiovascular disease – the state’s leading causes of preventable death – by preventing tobacco use and obesity.