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The negative side effects of vaping

Researchers studied the negative side effects of vaping among youth, finding an increase in problems with remembering, concentrating, and decision-making.

Electronic cigarettes were invented in 2003 as an alternative to smoking. Smoking electronic cigarettes is known as vaping and is increasingly popular with high school students. Between 2017 and 2019, the number of high school students vaping more than doubled from 11.7% to 27.5%. Unfortunately, vaping is not a safe alternative to smoking and is associated with negative side effects and health conditions such as respiratory disease and heart problems. Surveys performed in 2016-2017 indicated vaping might cause difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions.

Studies indicated a link between nicotine use and attention problems, which are especially problematic during the critical development stage of adolescence. Researchers from the University of Rochester medical Center (URMC) investigated the negative side effects of vaping. Their results were published in the journals Tobacco Induced Diseases and Plos One.

To assess the negative side effects of vaping, researchers analyzed data from the 2018 National Youth Tobacco Survey (NYTS). This survey has been conducted since 1999 and asks US middle and high schoolers questions about tobacco-related beliefs, attitudes, behavior, and exposure to tobacco influences.

The NYTS provided data for 18,535 youth. The questionnaires provided information on whether the student smoked, vaped, smoked and vaped, or never used tobacco products. Participants reported how frequently they used tobacco products, and whether they craved tobacco products. 

The students also reported whether they had trouble concentrating, remembering, or making decisions due to a physical, mental, or emotional condition. The researchers analyzed this information with the smoking data to determine any association between vaping and difficulty concentrating.

Students who vaped were more likely to have difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions than those who never vaped. Researchers suspect that the nicotine in e-cigarettes could be responsible for the cognitive side effects of vaping. The earlier students began vaping, the greater chance for the negative side effects of vaping. 

The study also suggested that boys were more likely to experience the negative side effects of vaping. However, previous research has shown females process nicotine faster than males, making it harder for them to quit using nicotine products. Further research is needed on gender differences and vaping side effects. 

Written by: Rebecca K. Blankenship, B.Sc.


1. e-cigarette | Characteristics, Safety Issues, & Regulation. Encyclopedia Britannica. Published 2021. Accessed January 4, 2021.

2. Xie C, Xie Z, Li D. Association of electronic cigarette use with self-reported difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions in US youth. Tob Induc Dis. 2020;18(December):1-9. doi:10.18332/tid/130925

Image by Lindsay Fox from Pixabay 

Rebecca Blankenship BSc
Rebecca Blankenship BSc
Rebecca Blankenship is a freelance technical writer. She reviews, edits, and authors internal quality documentation required for regulatory compliance. She has twenty years experience in industrial pharma/medical device quality management systems and an honors BSc in chemistry. She is a natural born rule follower and enjoys applying this strength to help others be audit ready to meet regulatory requirements. She also loves learning about the latest scientific discoveries while writing for Medical News Bulletin. Her free time is spent as a full-time mom, encouraging can-do attitudes and cooperation in her three children.


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