Kids who start vaping before the age of 14 are more likely to experience ‘mental fog’, study finds

Vaping could be just as damaging to young people’s brains as tobacco smoking, according to new research.

Both teenagers and adults who use e-cigarettes are more likely to have trouble concentrating, remembering or making decisions, say US scientists.

However, the risk of mental ‘fogginess’ rises further for those who take up the habit before the age of 14.

‘Our studies add to growing evidence vaping should not be considered a safe alternative to tobacco smoking,’ said study lead author Profess Dongmei Li, of the University of Rochester, New York. 

Both teenagers and adults who use e-cigarettes are more likely to have trouble concentrating, remembering or making decisions (stock)

Both teenagers and adults who use e-cigarettes are more likely to have trouble concentrating, remembering or making decisions (stock)

The analysis of more than 900,000 people in the US is the first to investigate a link that had previously been suggested during experiments on animals.

It showed those who vape and smoke were most prone – followed by those who did one or the other.

Mental function problems were significantly higher among these groups than their non-vaping and non-smoking peers.

What is more, children who started vaping between eight and 13 years old were even more vulnerable than those who began at 14 or over.

Mental function problems were found to be significantly higher among people who vaped or smoked than their non-vaping and non-smoking peers

Mental function problems were found to be significantly higher among people who vaped or smoked than their non-vaping and non-smoking peers 

Vaping is just as bad as smoking cigarettes for increasing the risk of heart disease

Vaping causes significant damage to blood vessels in the same way as smoking traditional cigarettes, a study has found. 

Blood vessels become stiffer and less effective in vapers and people who both vape and smoke, compared to non-smokers. 

People who only inhale from cigarettes and do not vape also have the same issue of stiffening blood vessels.  

Nicotine — the addictive substance in vapes and cigarettes — constricts blood vessels and over time this leads to a loss of elasticity. 

Rigid arteries and blood vessels are known to increase a person’s risk of developing heart disease.  

Researchers studied more than 400 men and women aged between 21 and 45 made up of non-smokers, cigarette smokers, e-cigarette users and people who both smoked and vaped.

All e-cigarette users were former cigarette smokers.

The study, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association on Wednesday, found that former smokers who switched to e-cigarettes and dual users had arteries that were just as stiff as those in traditional smokers.


‘With the recent rise in teen vaping, this is very concerning and suggests we need to intervene even earlier,’ Prof Li said.

‘Prevention programs that start in middle or high school might actually be too late.’

Nicotine has been dubbed ‘brain poison’ for youngsters. 

Adolescence is a critical period for brain development, especially for higher-order mental function such as attention, learning and memory.

This means children and teenagers may be more susceptible to nicotine-induced brain changes, explained Prof Li.

E-cigarettes deliver as much or even more nicotine than cigarettes, despite lacking many other dangerous compounds found in tobacco, she said.

Flavours such as mango, mint, strawberry and vanilla mask its harsh taste. 

It is known change the activity of neurons in key regions of grey matter that go on maturing until the mid-20s.

Prof Li’s team mined data on over 18,000 participants in the National Youth Tobacco Survey and more than 886,000 adults from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System phone survey.

Both were asked similar questions about smoking and vaping habits as well as issues with memory, attention and mental function.

An association between vaping and mental function was clearly identified – although which comes first is less obvious.

It is possible nicotine exposure through vaping causes difficulty with mental function, said Prof Li.

On the other hand, people who report ‘mental fog’ may simply be more likely to smoke or vape – possibly to self-medicate.

Prof Li and colleagues say further studies that follow kids and adults over time are needed to get to the bottom of the ’cause and effect.’

Previous research has shown nicotine-induced changes to the brain during adolescence can be permanent.

Its harm can lead to long-term effects on the ability to make decisions and can also leave an increased risk of addiction to other substances.

Last year a study found vaping damages the heart, lungs and blood vessels – including those that supply the brain.

The latest findings were published in the journals Tobacco Induced Diseases and PLOS One.

What is an e-cigarette and how is it different to smoking tobacco?

An electronic cigarette (e-cigarette) is a device that allows users to inhale nicotine by heating a vapour from a solution that contain nicotine, propylene and flavourings.

As there is no burning involved, there is no smoke like a traditional cigarette.

But while they have been branded as carrying a lower risk than cigarettes, an increasing swell of studies is showing health dangers.

E-cigarettes do not produce tar or carbon monoxide, but the vapor does contain some harmful chemicals.

Nicotine is the highly addictive chemical which makes it difficult for smokers to quit.  

Nearly three million people in Britain use e-cigarettes, and more than nine million Americans.


1. Standard e-cigarette

Battery-powered device containing nicotine e-liquid.

It vaporizes flavored nicotine liquid.

2. Juul

Very similar to normal e-cigarettes but with sleeker design and a higher concentration of nicotine.

Thanks to its ‘nicotine salts’, manufacturers claim one pod delivers the amount of nicotine as a pack of cigarettes.

It is composed of an e-cigarette (battery and temperature control), and a pod of e-liquid which is inserted at the end.

The liquid contains nicotine, chemicals and flavorings.

Like other vaping devices, it vaporizes the e-liquid.

3. IQOS by Philip Morris

Pen-shaped, charged like an iPod.

Vaporizes tobacco.

It is known as a ‘heat not burn’ smokeless device, heating tobacco but not burning it (at 350C compared to 600C as normal cigarettes do).

The company claims this method lowers users’ exposure to carcinogen from burning tobacco.



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