“Checking your phone and vaping as you do” by Alper Çuğun is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Vaping Can Make Your Head Cloudy

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Dr. Li

Dongmei Li, Ph.D.

Dongmei Li, Ph.D., Associate Professor
Clinical and Translational Science Institute
University of Rochester Medical Center

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: Previous animal and human studies have found that nicotine exposure could harm adolescents’ brain development and impact their cognitive functions. Electronic cigarettes, which have become very popular among youth in the US in recent years, usually contain nicotine at equivalent or possibly higher levels than traditional tobacco cigarettes. Thus, it is reasonable to assume that vaping might be associated with self-reported cognitive complaints.

MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings? 

Response: Main findings from our study are:

  1. Our cross-sectional youth and adult studies are the first to associate vaping with self-reported complaints of serious difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions.
  2. Our youth study also found that students who reported starting to vape early – between eight and 13 years of age – had higher odds of reporting difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions than those who started vaping at 14 or older.
  3. These studies add to a growing list of conditions and diseases (wheezing, COPD, cardiovascular disease, cancer) that have been associated with vaping/electronic cigarette use. 

MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?

"E-Cigarette/Electronic Cigarette/E-Cigs/E-Liquid/Vaping/Cloud Chasing" by Vaping360 is licensed under CC BY 2.0 CC BY 2.0Response: Though e-cigarettes have been marketed as a safe alternative to traditional tobacco smoking, we still don’t fully understand the health impacts of these products. Our report provides the first evidence of an association between vaping and difficulty with mental function and suggests that kids who start vaping early (at 8-13 years old) are more likely to report these issues. This could mean that we need to implement future vaping and tobacco use prevention efforts even earlier. An intervention program for reducing tobacco use in youth may be more effective if it starts with middle school or even elementary school students.

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?

Response: Our cross-sectional national survey study only investigated the association between smoking/vaping and self-reported serious difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions because of a physical, mental, or emotional condition in youth, and does not imply any causal relationship. It is possible that vaping puts kids at greater risk for physical, mental, or emotional conditions that cause serious difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions. Alternatively, it is also plausible that kids who have cognitive problems may vape or smoke to attenuate the symptoms of their physical, mental, or emotional condition. Future longitudinal studies should be conducted to explore the possible causal associations between vaping and serious difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions in youth.

MedicalResearch.com: Is there anything else you would like to add? 

Response: Given the short time period of e-cigarettes in the market, it is hard to determine the long-term effects of e-cigarette use. Therefore, more data need to be collected and analyzed in the future to evaluate the long-term cognitive effects of vaping in youth.

No disclosures from all authors of this published paper in Tobacco Induced Diseases journal.

The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the NIH or the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).


  1. Catherine Xie, Zidian Xie, Dongmei Li. Association of electronic cigarette use with self-reporteddifficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisionsin US youth. Tobacco Induced Diseases, 2020; 18 (December): 1 DOI: 18332/tid/130925
  2. Zidian Xie, Deborah J. Ossip, Irfan Rahman, Richard J. O’Connor, Dongmei Li. Electronic cigarette use and subjective cognitive complaints in adults. PLOS ONE, 2020; 15 (11): e0241599 DOI: 1371/journal.pone.0241599



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Last Updated on December 29, 2020 by Marie Benz MD FAAD