If you’ve found yourself walking around in a mental fog lately, it may be time to put down the vape pen.
A new study just released by the University of Rochester Medical Center finds compelling evidence of an association between vaping and mental fog (memory problems, difficulty concentrating, and indecision).
Among both adults and adolescents, vapers had a much harder time with these basic mental processes than non-vapers. Notably, vapers who started smoking before the age of 14 are more likely to develop mental fog.
Many point to vaping as a safer alternative to cigarettes and other tobacco products, but these findings are yet another piece of scientific evidence suggesting that just isn’t true. It seems vaping devices feature their own distinct array of health hazards. This research, however, is the first human study to note a connection between vaping and mental impairment. Prior studies had come to similar conclusions while analyzing animals.
“Our studies add to growing evidence that vaping should not be considered a safe alternative to tobacco smoking,” comments lead study author Dongmei Li, Ph.D., associate professor in the Clinical and Translational Science Institute at URMC, in a release.
“With the recent rise in teen vaping, this is very concerning and suggests that we need to intervene even earlier,” Li adds. “Prevention programs that start in middle or high school might actually be too late.”
A large dataset was used to reach these conclusions, including over 18,000 responses from middle and high school students as well as 886,000 survey responses from U.S. adults. All of those participants were questioned on several relevant topics such as their vaping habits, any memory issues, typical attention span, and overall mental functioning.
An analysis of those responses produced many interesting findings. To start, people of any age who smoke and vape are most likely to deal with impaired mental functioning. Moreover, people who only vape or only smoke reported about the same levels of mental fog, which was much higher than what was indicated by non-smokers.
Troublingly, this research also suggests it’s extra risky for young adolescents (between eight and 13 years old) to pick up a vaping habit. Participants who admitted to vaping that early in life were more likely to report memory, concentration, and decision-making problems than other vapers who got started later.
Adolescence is, of course, a critical time for one’s brain development. So, study authors theorize vaping at a young age may make adolescent users more susceptible to nicotine-induced brain changes and a resulting addiction. It’s undeniably true that vape products spare users many of the awful, harmful chemicals found in cigarettes, but vapes still contain tons of addictive nicotine.
Ultimately, though, no decisive conclusions can be drawn from these findings. This study confirms an association between mental fog and vaping, but it can not establish causation. Vaping may cause cognitive issues, but people dealing with mental fog may also be drawn toward vaping as a habit for whatever reason. In conclusion, researchers say more work is necessary on this topic.
Still, if you were looking for another excuse or motivation to cut back on your vaping habit, here it is. Vapes are healthier than cigarettes by some metrics, but their full impact on the human body over time is still very much a mystery.
The full study can be found here, published in Tobacco Induced Diseases.