Summary: Adults and adolescents who use vaping products are more likely to experience problems with concentration, memory, and decision making than their peers who don’t vape or smoke. Those who began vaping before age 14 are more likely to experience “mental fog” as they develop into adulthood.
Source: University of Rochester
Two new studies from the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) have uncovered an association between vaping and mental fog. Both adults and kids who vape were more likely to report difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions than their non-vaping, non-smoking peers. It also appeared that kids were more likely to experience mental fog if they started vaping before the age of 14.
While other studies have found an association between vaping and mental impairment in animals, the URMC team is the first to draw this connection in people. Led by Dongmei Li, Ph.D., associate professor in the Clinical and Translational Science Institute at URMC, the team mined data from two major national surveys.
“Our studies add to growing evidence that vaping should not be considered a safe alternative to tobacco smoking,” said study author Li.
The studies, published in the journals Tobacco Induced Diseases and Plos One, analyzed over 18,000 middle and high school student responses to the National Youth Tobacco Survey and more than 886,000 responses to the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System phone survey from U.S. adults. Both surveys ask similar questions about smoking and vaping habits as well as issues with memory, attention and mental function.
Both studies show that people who smoke and vape – regardless of age – are most likely to report struggling with mental function. Behind that group, people who only vape or only smoke reported mental fog at similar rates, which were significantly higher than those reported by people who don’t smoke or vape.
The youth study also found that students who reported starting to vape early – between eight and 13 years of age – were more likely to report difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions than those who started vaping at 14 or older.
“With the recent rise in teen vaping, this is very concerning and suggests that we need to intervene even earlier,” said Li. “Prevention programs that start in middle or high school might actually be too late.”
Adolescence is a critical period for brain development, especially for higher-order mental function, which means tweens and teens may be more susceptible to nicotine-induced brain changes. While e-cigarettes lack many of the dangerous compounds found in tobacco cigarettes, they deliver the same amount or even more nicotine.
While the URMC studies clearly show an association between vaping and mental function, it’s not clear which causes which. It is possible that nicotine exposure through vaping causes difficulty with mental function. But it is equally possible that people who report mental fog are simply more likely to smoke or vape – possibly to self-medicate.
Li and her team say that further studies that follow kids and adults over time are needed to parse the cause and effect of vaping and mental fog.
In addition to Li, authors of the youth study include Catherine Xie, and Zidian Xie, Ph.D. For the adult study, Li was joined by co-authors Zidian Xie, Ph.D., Deborah J. Ossip, Ph.D. Irfan Rahman, Ph.D., and Richard J. O’Connor, Ph.D.
Funding: Both studies were funded by the National Cancer Institute and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Tobacco Products.
About this vaping and cognition research news
Source: University of Rochester
Contact: Susanne Pallo – University of Rochester
Image: The image is in the public domain
Original Research: Open access.
“Association of electronic cigarette use with self-reported difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions in US youth” by Catherine Xie, Zidian Xie, Dongmei Li. Tobacco Induced Diseases
Original Research: Open access.
“Electronic cigarette use and subjective cognitive complaints in adults” by Zidian Xie, Deborah J. Ossip, Irfan Rahman, Richard J. O’Connor, Dongmei Li. PLOS ONE
Association of electronic cigarette use with self-reported difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions in US youth
Electronic cigarette use (vaping) has become increasingly popular among youth. The aim of this study is to determine the cross-sectional association of vaping, smoking, and dual use of these tobacco products with self-reported serious difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions (DCRMD), because of a physical, mental, or emotional condition (PMEC) in US youth.
The 2018 National Youth Tobacco Survey (NYTS) data with 18535 youth were used for analysis. All included youth who answered whether they have serious DCRMD and stated their vaping and smoking status. Multivariable weighted logistics regression models were used to examine the association of vaping and smoking with the risk of DCRMD in youth, considering a complex sampling design.
Ever dual users (AOR=4.19; 95% CI: 2.97–5.92), exclusive ever cigarette smokers (AOR=1.50; 95% CI: 1.18–1.91) and exclusive ever e-cigarette users (AOR=3.13; 95% CI: 2.25–4.34) had significantly higher odds of self-reported DCRMD than never users in youth. Subgroup analysis on exclusive ever e-cigarette users who started vaping in middle school or earlier had significantly higher odds of self-reported DCRMD compared to those who started vaping in high school (AOR=1.77; 95% CI: 1.27–2.45). Meanwhile, male youth who were exclusive ever e-cigarette users had higher odds of self-reported DCRMD than female youth who were exclusive ever e-cigarette users (AOR=1.67; 95% CI: 1.25–2.22).
Vaping, smoking and dual use were associated with self-reported serious difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions because of a physical, mental, or emotional condition in youth, which provided initial evidence on the cross-sectional association between vaping and self-reported cognitive problems.
Electronic cigarette use and subjective cognitive complaints in adults
Electronic cigarette use (vaping) has become popular in recent years. The number of Americans with a variety of cognitive deficits has been increasing dramatically. This study aimed to examine the potential association of vaping with subjective cognitive complaints in US adults.
A combined 2016 and 2017 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) national survey dataset yielded 886,603 adults who indicated their smoking and vaping status, as well as whether they had subjective cognitive complaints. With this dataset, the cross-sectional association of electronic cigarette use with subjective cognitive complaints was examined using multivariable weighted logistic regression models.
Both dual users (adjusted Odds Ratio [aOR] = 2.07; 95% Confidence Interval [CI] = 1.66 to 2.60) and current vapers who were either ex-smokers (aOR = 1.94; 95% CI = 1.40 to 2.71) or never smoked (aOR = 1.96; 95% CI = 1.16 to 3.30) showed a significantly higher association with subjective cognitive complaints than never users. Current smokers (aOR = 1.49; 95% CI = 1.32 to 1.69) and ex-smokers (aOR = 1.25; 95% CI = 1.11 to 1.41) had a significantly higher association with subjective cognitive complaints compared to never users. Compared to current smokers, the ex-smokers showed a lower association with subjective cognitive complaints (aOR = 0.84; 95% CI = 0.73 to 0.96). Finally, the association of vaping with subjective cognitive complaints was not statistically significant in individual age group.
Similar to smoking, vaping is associated with subjective cognitive complaints in US adults. These results provide preliminary evidence for a cross-sectional association of vaping with potential cognitive health effects in adults.