Health & Wellbeing

Studies find link between vaping and cognitive impairments

Studies find link between vapi...
Two new studies present a correlation between cognitive complaints and e-cigarette use
Two new studies present a correlation between cognitive complaints and e-cigarette use
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Two new studies present a correlation between cognitive complaints and e-cigarette use
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Two new studies present a correlation between cognitive complaints and e-cigarette use

A pair of large observational studies are suggesting a possible link between e-cigarette use and cognitive complaints such as memory impairments and brain fog. The cross-sectional research does not present evidence for a causal link between vaping and cognitive problems but instead calls for further longitudinal investigation into the potential relationship.

Rates of teenage tobacco use have dramatically declined over the past few decades. E-cigarette use, on the other hand, has rapidly grown in recent years. In 2018 the US Surgeon General even declared e-cigarette use among America's youth a national epidemic. But debates are ongoing over whether e-cigarettes are a gateway to traditional tobacco smoking and scientists are still investigating the long-term health effects of vaping.

Looking at data from two big population surveys, researchers from the University of Rochester Medical Center have detected a novel association between specific self-reported cognitive complaints and e-cigarette use, in both adults and adolescents. The first study, published in the journal Tobacco Induced Diseases, looked at data from more than 18,000 US high school students.

The research revealed those adolescents who smoked tobacco or used e-cigarettes self-reported higher levels of difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions. This association was stronger the earlier a subject started vaping, with those using e-cigarettes between the ages of eight and 13 most likely to report cognitive complaints.

The second study, published in the journal Plos One, looked at two years of data from an annual phone survey called the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. More than 800,000 adults were surveyed in the study, and again a distinct association was detected between e-cigarette use and cognitive complaints.

Traditional tobacco smokers and e-cigarette users both reported a similar higher frequency of cognitive complaints compared to non-smokers but dual users (those who smoked tobacco and vaped) were even more likely to report problems. These results were based on a single yes/no survey question asking if a subject has, “serious difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions?”

Of course, correlation is not causation, and the researchers stress there is no clear indication that e-cigarette use is directly causing these attentional deficits. In fact, the Plos One study clearly points out it is possible this observed association is due to those with pre-existing cognitive complaints hypothetically being more likely to take up smoking or vaping in the first place.

“[A] possible explanation is that patients having subjective cognitive complaints might use smoking or vaping to reduce cognitive symptoms,” the researchers hypothesize. “Several studies showed that mental health problems (such as anxiety, depressive, and substance use symptoms) could lead to the initiation of e-cigarette use. One possible reason is that smokers or vapers believe smoking or vaping could help with their mental health problems.”

Dongmei Li, lead researcher on the two studies, says the only way to fully understand the causal relationship is to conduct detailed longitudinal research. E-cigarette use is relatively new so the long-term health effects are still unclear.

In the short term, Li suggests more public health interventions may be necessary to prevent e-cigarette use in very young populations. While it is increasingly clear e-cigarettes are not as generally harmful as traditional tobacco smoking, they are certainly not harmless, and it is that message Li is most keen to convey.

“Our studies add to growing evidence that vaping should not be considered a safe alternative to tobacco smoking,” says Li. “With the recent rise in teen vaping, this is very concerning and suggests that we need to intervene even earlier. Prevention programs that start in middle or high school might actually be too late.”

The adult study was published in the journal PLOS ONE, while the high school study was published in the journal Tobacco Induced Diseases.

Source: University of Rochester Medical Center

7 comments
7 comments
paul314
" those using e-cigarettes between the ages of eight and 13 most likely to report cognitive complaints"

Sure is a good thing vape-juice manufacturers aren't targeting underage users. Oh, wait.

Even if some of the causation in that correlation goes the other way, it's really not a good sign.
Aross
I would pull it all off the market until it is proven safe, which I doubt will never happen. Tobacco and nicotine has been a problem since it was first brought back from the new world. It's Time this crap was taken off the market.
Expanded Viewpoint
Hey, these people who go out of their way to put dangerous chemicals into their body to create an effect that they will then become addicted to, are already showing the world that they have cognitive impairments and mental health issues!! By some schools of thought, if they manage to take themselves out of the gene pool before reproducing, then so much the better! Just sayin'.
Nobody
I get so tired of people tiptoeing around real problems. It is obvious that vaping users are desperate for attention and try to generate as much smoke as possible so people notice. Cigarette users are not nearly as obnoxious about producing as much smoke as possible. Usually tobacco users started the same way until they became addicted and then couldn't quit. The "look at me" inferiority complex is quite common among young people and many older folks. Even claiming the cognitive complaints is likely another call for attention. The real question is why so many feel inferior and need attention. Society is responsible for much of this by inferring that most of us aren't rich enough, pretty enough, thin enough, smart enough or well dressed enough. Advertisers recognize our human weaknesses and offer products that will make us feel better about ourselves. The problems are so obvious and avoiding the truth is also so obvious. If we are unwilling to define the real problems, we will never find the solutions.
Rusty Harris
Vaping, along with tobacco (in the USA), will never disappear. The U.S. Government makes to d*mn much tax money off of it.
Theodore41
@Nobody.I think it is time to hear again a old song,saying something about money.Money makes the world go round. Remember Lisa Minelli singing it?
ljaques
When polled for their take on this probable loss of cognition, the majority of vapers responded "Huh?"