How Vaping Nicotine Can Affect A Teenage Brain (2022)

How does nicotine in e-cigarettes affect young brains? Researchers are teasing out answers. Research on young mice and rats shows how nicotine hijacks brain systems involved in learning, memory, impulse control and addiction. Gabby Jones/Bloomberg via Getty Images hide caption

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Gabby Jones/Bloomberg via Getty Images

How Vaping Nicotine Can Affect A Teenage Brain (2)
Video: Vaping: The Hit Your Brain Takes

How does nicotine in e-cigarettes affect young brains? Researchers are teasing out answers. Research on young mice and rats shows how nicotine hijacks brain systems involved in learning, memory, impulse control and addiction.

Gabby Jones/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The link between vaping and severe lung problems is getting a lot of attention.

But scientists say they're also worried about vaping's effect on teenage brains.

"Unfortunately, the brain problems and challenges may be things that we see later on down the road," says Nii Addy, associate professor of psychiatry and cellular and molecular physiology at Yale School of Medicine.

Potential problems include attention disorders like ADHD, impulse control issues and susceptibility to substance abuse.

There's no easy way to study precisely what nicotine is doing in a teenager's brain. But research on young animals shows that nicotine can interfere with processes that are critical to memory, learning, focus, impulse control and brain development.

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"It's unfortunate that a whole generation of teenagers are basically guinea pigs for the effects of nicotine in the brain," says Frances Leslie, professor of pharmaceutical sciences at the University of California, Irvine.

Leslie says the problem is that nicotine mimics acetylcholine, an important chemical messenger in the brain. So nicotine is able to fool brain cells that have something called a nicotinic receptor.

Unfortunately, she says, "those parts of the brain that are actively maturing during adolescence are being actively controlled by nicotinic receptors."

Nicotine also acts on the brain's dopamine system, which plays a role in desire, pleasure, reward and impulse control.

It's still not clear what tweaking the dopamine system does to the brain of an adolescent human.

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But in young mice, Leslie says, the result is alarming. "A very brief, low-dose exposure to nicotine in early adolescence increases the rewarding properties of other drugs, including alcohol, cocaine, methamphetamine — and these are long-term changes," she says.

Of course, nicotine-vaping products also contain lots of other substances, including flavors like bubblegum and pink lemonade. And Addy wonders whether these flavors might offer a dopamine kick of their own.

"If both nicotine and flavors are both acting on this same dopamine system in the brain," he says, "is that somehow facilitating and making it more likely that people will take products that have both flavors and nicotine?"

So Addy and a team of researchers studied rats that drank plain and flavored liquids containing nicotine.

"What we found is that the sweet flavors can make the nicotine more palatable in the oral cavity," he says, "but also act in the brain to increase nicotine taking."

This effect is especially troubling in a teenage brain, Addy says, which is more sensitive than an adult brain to rewards.

Animal research by another Yale University scientist suggests that vaping during adolescence can lead to long-term brain changes, like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, Addy says.

"If there's exposure to nicotine early on, that can influence attentional processes later in life," he says.

So what might help reduce teen vaping?

Video: Does Vaping Effect Young Brain Development

One approach is to ban flavored products, something that was proposed by the Trump administration in September.

And if the ban happens, it could reduce the number of new vapers, says Janet Audrain-McGovern, a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania.

Research shows that "if the first e-cigarette that you used was flavored, then you're more likely to go on and use an e-cigarette again," Audrain-McGovern says.

Another promising approach is to make nicotine-vaping products more expensive. When taxes forced up the price of tobacco products, Audrain-McGovern says, the number of young customers declined.

Finally, Audrain-McGovern thinks it should be harder for teenagers to buy vaping products online.

At the moment, many vaping websites simply ask visitors if they are underage before allowing a sale.

"I don't think it's that difficult to click the box that you're 18 or you're 21 and, if you have a credit card, to get those products," Audrain-McGovern says.

In August, Juul Labs launched a program that offers incentives to retailers that implement an age-verification system for customers.

But some measures that helped discourage smoking probably won't work as well against vaping, Audrain-McGovern says. For example, studies suggest that physically active teens are less likely than their peers to smoke but no less likely to vape.

Another challenge is that it's hard for scientists and regulators to keep up with the rapid pace of change in the vaping world.

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"Teens who maybe four years ago were using predominately vape pens are now using Juul and some of the pod mods," Audrain-McGovern says.

And those newer products are designed to deliver higher levels of nicotine to the brain. More nicotine makes the products more addictive.


How Vaping Nicotine Can Affect A Teenage Brain?

Vaping puts nicotine into the body. Nicotine is highly addictive and can: slow brain development in teens and affect memory, concentration, learning, self-control, attention, and mood. increase the risk of other types of addiction later in life.

How does nicotine affect the teenage brain?

Young people's brains build synapses faster than adult brains. Because addiction is a form of learning, adolescents can get addicted more easily than adults. The nicotine in e-cigarettes and other tobacco products can also prime the adolescent brain for addiction to other drugs such as cocaine.

How does Vaping nicotine affect the brain?

Vaping with or without nicotine has been shown to impact impulse control, especially in young adults whose brains have not fully developed yet. Some of these risks include mood disorders and permanent damage to parts of the brain responsible for memory, emotion and critical thinking.

How does vaping affect a teenager?

Vaping and Mental Health

The nicotine in vaping devices puts teenagers at risk for a range of long-term effects, including mood disorders, reduced impulse control, and addiction. It can also exacerbate the symptoms and behaviors of depression, anxiety, and hyperactivity.

How does vaping affect you mentally?

Though nicotine has not been found to directly cause mental health conditions, peer-reviewed studies reveal troubling links between vaping, nicotine, and worsening symptoms of depression and anxiety, as well as higher odds of having a depression diagnosis.

What are 5 negative effects of vaping?

The most commonly-reported adverse effects were throat/mouth irritation, headache, cough, and nausea, which tended to dissipate with continued use.
Coughing, dry throat, headaches
  • coughing.
  • dry mouth and throat.
  • shortness of breath.
  • mouth and throat irritation.
  • headaches.

Can vaping cause brain damage?

Nicotine negatively affects how synapses—connections between brain cells—are formed. Many devices also produce vapor containing lead, which can cause brain damage. "Injury to stem cells diminish the brain's ability to repair damage for the remainder of a person's life," says Dr.

What are 10 risks of vaping?

Serious vaping side effects may include:
  • Nicotine addiction.
  • Severe lung injury.
  • Seizures.
  • Cryptogenic organizing pneumonia (COP), formerly known as idiopathic bronchiolitis obliterans with organizing pneumonia (BOOP)
  • Popcorn lung.
  • Strokes.
  • Heart attacks.

Does vaping mess with your memory?

Two new studies from the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) have uncovered an association between vaping and mental fog. Both adults and kids who vape were more likely to report difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions than their non-vaping, non-smoking peers.

What part of the brain is affected by vaping?

Nicotine has been shown to have an effect on the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain located at the anterior of the frontal lobe. According to, the adult brain tends to mature from the back to the front regions. This makes the prefrontal cortex the last area to make critical neural connections.

How does nicotine affect mental health?

At first, nicotine improves mood and concentration, decreases anger and stress, relaxes muscles and reduces appetite. Regular doses of nicotine lead to changes in the brain, which then lead to nicotine withdrawal symptoms when the supply of nicotine decreases.

Why do teens vape?

addiction, they like the “hit” they get from nicotine. appealing flavors (e.g. fruit, candy, dessert) devices are seen as trendy, or a status symbol. they consider vaping “harmless” and “safer than smoking” in order to quit or cut down on smoking.

What can vaping cause?

These aldehydes can cause lung disease, as well as cardiovascular (heart) disease. E-cigarettes also contain acrolein, a herbicide primarily used to kill weeds. It can cause acute lung injury and COPD and may cause asthma and lung cancer.

What damage does nicotine cause?

Nicotine is a dangerous and highly addictive chemical. It can cause an increase in blood pressure, heart rate, flow of blood to the heart and a narrowing of the arteries (vessels that carry blood). Nicotine may also contribute to the hardening of the arterial walls, which in turn, may lead to a heart attack.

Can you buy a vape at 13 years old?

A: The federal minimum age to purchase e-cigarette products is 18, but the laws vary by state – 49 states have set a minimum age that is older than 18. Unfortunately, the majority of underage vaping users are still getting the products from local gas stations or areas in their community that sell the products.

What happens if you vape too much in one day?

It's important to know your limits when it comes to vaping, especially if you are new to using nicotine. Your tolerance may not be as high as those that vape or smoke more regularly, so start low and slow. Consuming too much nicotine can cause negative side effects, including: Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or stomach ache.

Does nicotine affect intelligence?

Summary: Smokers often say that smoking a cigarette helps them concentrate and feel more alert. But years of tobacco use may have the opposite effect, dimming the speed and accuracy of a person's thinking ability and bringing down their IQ, according to a new study.

Does nicotine cause brain fog?

Foggy brain is just one of the many symptoms of nicotine withdrawal and it's often most common in the first week or two of quitting. When you were using tobacco, your body was used to getting nicotine from cigarettes, vaping or chew/dip.

Can vaping cause depression and anxiety?

In Truth Initiative's August 2021 survey, four in five young people who have used e-cigarettes (81%) did so as an attempt to lessen their stress, anxiety or depression. In the same survey, 56% of young people who frequently vape don't know that e-cigarettes can increase their anxiety and irritability.

Can nicotine cause anxiety and depression?

Smoking, anxiety and mood

It's a common belief that smoking helps you relax. But smoking actually increases anxiety and tension. Smokers are also more likely than non-smokers to develop depression over time.

Do Vapes cause anxiety?

Recent studies reveal a troubling link between vaping nicotine and mental health. In fact, the nicotine in vapes can worsen anxiety symptoms and amplify feelings of depression.


1. Why Vaping Is Bad For You
(Science Insider)
2. Teen Brain Development
(National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA/NIH))
3. Vaping is more harmful than you think
(Demystifying Medicine)
4. How Vaping Affects Teen Brain Development | Jason Fine
(The Stand Project UA)
5. Recent Vaping Stats & Nicotine in the Developing Brain

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