‘The Path to Freedom’

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTHI) – At 66 out of 92 Indiana counties, Vigo County remains one of the unhealthiest.

The high percentage of Hoosiers who smoke plays a key role. A new initiative by the Vigo County Tobacco Prevention and Cessation Coalition aims to lower those statistics.

With every step Mary Wence gets closer to winning the battle against addiction.

“When you’re in the process of trying to quit you have the cigarette first thing in the morning, and then the one after the meal, and then you’re coming home from work and you think good you don’t have any cigarettes, and then you start to panic,” said Wence.

She’s been a smoker for the past thirty years, at times smoking up to a pack a day.

Wence is one of 68 percent of smokers who want to quit but have trouble overcoming the addiction.

“Climbing stairs can be difficult at times. My legs get weak, and it’s all due to the smoking,” she explained.

On Saturday, Wence was working towards a change. She joined the Path to Freedom, a new walking group for those struggling with quitting tobacco.

“My parents died at a really young age of lung cancer which makes me really stupid for continuing to smoke, so it’s an ongoing goal,” said Wence.

And she isn’t alone, a quarter of Hoosiers still smoke despite the laundry list of studies that link smoking to fatal health problems.

“There is virtually no organ in the body that isn’t adversely affected by tobacco. It contributes to a whole range of diseases such as cancer, COPD, to even now diabetes,” said Libby Ray, a Coordinator with the Vigo County Tobacco Prevention and Cessation.

The good news, benefits of quitting are felt almost immediately.

“Within a short amount of time things like blood pressure will decrease. The temperature in a person’s hands and feet will go back to normal,” Ray stated.

As Wence and the group finish their walk at Dobbs Park, they’re a mile closer to reaching their goal.

“Having peers, somebody to support you, I think that’s going to make a big difference,” said Wence.

“I hope it has a ripple affect in the community, so as people feel empowered they realize yes I can quit,” said Ray.

For more information of the Path to Freedom Walking Group you can visit wabashvalley.org or contact the coalition at (812) 232-5190 ext. 64.

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