Both teens and adults who vape are more likely to report difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions, according to researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC). The results of two separate investigations confirmed the link between vaping and mental fog.
The experts also found that kids were more likely to experience mental fog if they started vaping before the age of 14.
Previous studies have uncovered an association between vaping and mental impairment in animals, but the URMC team is the first to establish the same link in humans.
“Our studies add to growing evidence that vaping should not be considered a safe alternative to tobacco smoking,” said lead author Dr. Dongmei Li.
The studies, which were published in the journals Tobacco Induced Diseases and Plos One, were focused on the response of over 18,000 middle and high school students in the National Youth Tobacco Survey. Data was also analyzed from adults who participated in the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System phone survey, including more than 886,000 responses.
The surveys asked similar questions about smoking and vaping habits, as well as about issues with memory, attention, and mental function.
The analysis revealed that people who smoke and vape are most likely to report struggling with mental function, regardless of their age. Following just behind that group, people who only vape or only smoke reported mental fog at similar rates that were significantly higher than those reported by people who do neither.
Among teens, those who started vaping as early as eight to 13 years old were more likely to have difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions.
“With the recent rise in teen vaping, this is very concerning and suggests that we need to intervene even earlier,” said Dr. Li. “Prevention programs that start in middle or high school might actually be too late.”
According to the researchers, adolescence is a critical period for brain development, especially for executive mental function, which means tweens and teens may be more susceptible to nicotine-induced brain changes.
The experts noted that further studies are needed to follow kids and adults over time in order to gain a better understanding of the cause and effect of vaping and mental fog.
The study is published in the journal Tobacco Induced Diseases.