As more and more studies highlight the health concerns associated with vaping -- which include serious lung damage and heart issues -- a new study conducted by researchers from the University of Rochester Medical Center is exploring how e-cigarettes can affect consumers’ mental function.
According to their findings, vaping can have a negative effect on memory, thinking skills, and the ability to focus. The researchers say they are most worried about young people who vape.
“Our studies add to growing evidence that vaping should not be considered a safe alternative to tobacco smoking,” said researcher Dongmei Li, PhD.
Issues with cognitive function
The researchers conducted two studies to help them better understand what effect vaping has on consumers’ mental faculties. One study analyzed data from over 886,000 participants involved in the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System Survey, and the other study looked at more than 18,000 responses to the National Youth Tobacco Survey.
Ultimately, the researchers learned that participants who vaped or smoked cigarettes were more likely to struggle with cognitive function than those who had never smoked in any capacity. The study revealed that smoking -- whether e-cigarettes or traditional cigarettes -- was associated with three primary cognitive issues: decision-making, memory, and concentration.
Additionally, the researchers explained that age played a large role in the participants’ cognitive abilities. They found that when participants were younger than 14 when they started vaping or smoking, they were even more likely to have cognitive struggles as adults.
Though vaping rates for young people have declined in the last year, and many companies have put age restrictions on e-cigarettes to help prevent young people from picking up the habit, a great deal of e-cigarette advertising has previously been geared towards the younger demographic. The researchers are particularly concerned because high school age is a pivotal time in the brain’s development process. If young people have already picked up a smoking habit by this age, it could affect brain function long-term.
“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.”