Study links vaping and mental fog, but the cause isn't clear

A new study reports a link between vaping and mental fog, also called 'brain fog,' raising concerns about a potential consequence of the habit. The researchers don't yet know the cause of this association, however — it's possible vaping may be the cause or that people who vape are more likely to have some other shared factor that causes mental fog and increases their likelihood to pick up a vaping habit.

Vaping, of course, refers to the use of electronic cigarettes. These electronic devices are designed to heat a solution containing nicotine, which is inhaled. Some people use vaping as an alternative to traditional smoking, though many people report vaping use without a prior smoking habit, raising concerns about a new potential pathway to nicotine addiction.

The long-term health impacts of vaping aren't clear yet, but a growing body of evidence has linked the activity with potential health consequences, including issues with changes in oral bacteria, wheezing, and possible lung damage. In some cases, the potential consequences are associated with the flavorings used in the liquids, not the nicotine.

The latest research comes from the University of Rochester Medical Center; it involves two studies, one of which involved survey responses from US adults who were, among other things, asked about their mental function, memory, attention, and whether they vaped or smoked.

Using that data, the study found an association between vaping and reports of mental fog. Smokers were also more likely to report mental fog, with both vapers and smokers reporting similar rates of brain fog. Likewise, one of the studies found a greater link between vaping at a young age — between 8 and 13 years old — and brain fog compared to people who started vaping at a later age.