By Brittany Karford
One Utah cowboy is taking initiative to ?buck? tobacco sponsors from the state fair by September.
The Utah State Fair PRCA Rodeo is one of the last, if not the only rodeo in the state that still incorporates tobacco sponsorship and advertising.
?It?s the one that shouldn?t because it has state funding,? said Ted Hallisey, the host of The Quickest Minute in Rodeo on K-BULL and Radio Disney 860 AM in Salt Lake City.
Over a five-year campaign, Hallisey said he has convinced every rodeo in the state to drop tobacco sponsorship but one ? the state fair.
Yet Denise Stranger, marketing director for the Utah State Fairpark, said state fair officials don?t believe they are the last rodeo in the state to have a tobacco sponsor. They retain the sponsorship because they are a Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association-sanctioned rodeo.
?There is no ?in your face? advertising from the tobacco sponsor,? Stranger said. ?They have a presence on site, and no one under age 18 is allowed into their tent area.?
But Hallisey said the tents are full of more advertising in the form of handouts, stickers and shirts ? even free samples in other states.
Hallisey has less than two months before the state fair opens to rally Utah behind him.
?The past five years I pushed it subtly, but this year I?m really putting on the pressure,? he said.
Hallisey has been busy this year trying to court Utah Congressman Jim Matheson, Sen. Orin Hatch and Gov. Jon Huntsman with his proposal, in addition to the State Attorney General and Utah State Fair Administration.
?I haven?t heard any decisions yet,? Hallisey said.
But that won?t stop this cowboy.
Commonly known as ?Cowboy Ted,? the media personality founded Cowboys Against Tobacco and joined forces with the nationwide Buck Tobacco Sponsorship group to make Utah?s rodeos family friendly. Additionally, Hallisey writes children?s books and speaks in schools about a wholesome cowboy lifestyle.
Hallisey himself grew up with rodeo. Involved in the sport for over 30 years, he even tried his hand at competing.
?It hurt too much,? he said. ?I?ve been on five or six bulls that beat me up enough to not follow that dream.?
Now Cowboy Ted has a new ambition.
His mission statement: ?To introduce young people to positive role models who encourage youngsters to choose a healthy lifestyle for themselves, including the choice to refuse to use tobacco products.?
Backed by the American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, American Lung Association and Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, Hallisey is using the Buck Tobacco platform to promote healthy lifestyles and positive role models at Utah rodeos.
?I figured I?d better start in my home state first,? said Hallisey, who makes his home in Kanab.
The Utah State Fair PRCA Rodeo takes place on the first four nights of the 11-day event, which is the largest annual event in the state, attracting 300,000 people each year.
The Utah State Fair gives exposure to the Truth About Tobacco project and designates non-smoking areas. All Fairpark buildings are non-smoking facilities.
Still, free cigarette samples, bulls named after tobacco brands and tobacco-funded scholarships in intercollegiate rodeo circuits are trends Hallisey said he hopes to put an end to.
His efforts add to the Buck Tobacco Sponsorship project taking on the PRCA at both the local and the national level.