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Vaping Could Make Your Brain as Foggy as Your Bedroom

Maybe you have brain fog because you vape, maybe you vape because you have brain fog

Hey kids, did you know that vaping is bad? Well, according to recent research, it’s now extra bad! Particularly, though, for your brain performance.

In late December, the University of Rochester Medical Center published two studies linking mental fog and vaping in both adults and children. The first, featured in Tobacco Induced Diseases, analyzed responses from more than 18,000 middle and high school students in the National Youth Tobacco Survey. The second, featured in Plos One, utilized just under 900,000 responses to the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System phone survey of American adults.

What the studies found is that regardless of age, people who both vape and smoke are among the most likely to report difficulties with brain function, including brain fog, memory and attention issues. Among dual smokers and vapers under 18, 30 percent reported serious “difficulty concentrating, remembering or making decisions.” Among those who never use tobacco of any form, rates of these issues were just under 15 percent. 

Those who utilize only one form of tobacco didn’t fare much better than those who use both, though. Teens who exclusively used cigarettes reported difficulty concentrating, remembering or making decisions at a rate of 25 percent, compared with exclusive vapers at 20 percent. 

In the adult survey, participants were asked to report “subjective cognitive complaints” (defined as “difficulty concentrating, remembering or making decisions”). Here again, dual users were most likely to cite these complaints, with 27 percent of dual users reporting them, compared to 8 percent of non-smokers. Current vapers who never smoked cigarettes reported these complaints at twice the rate of total non-smokers, and current cigarette smokers reported complaints at a rate of 20 percent. 

What’s important to note about both of these studies, however, is that they merely point to an association. While tobacco users may have more cognitive difficulties than non-tobacco users, tobacco use may simply be correlated, rather than the cause itself. In the youth survey, students were asked to report whether they experienced difficulty concentrating, remembering or making decisions specifically as the result of a physical, mental or emotional condition. Rather than vaping or smoking causing these mental issues, it may instead be that having these mental issues makes teenagers more likely to use tobacco. In the adult survey, subjective cognitive complaints were also highest among those who were out of work, unable to work, did not graduate high school, in poor health or earning less than $20,000 per year. In this case, too, tobacco use may be a symptom rather than the cause. 

Nevertheless, the data points to an important statistical link between vaping, smoking and mental health. While it’s unclear whether vaping does actually cause brain fog, it’s probably better to avoid it entirely.