Is vaping Affecting the Brain of Teenagers?

Have teens been exposed to vape in real life? If so, where do they mostly see vape is being used? Do they vape only because stars icon doing that so?

The recent vaping trend has increased the concerns among Medical and Public Health professionals, who says it reminds them of the of cigarettes when smoking behind classrooms and in parking lots. But the risks here are increased much now, they say because e-cigs can be used indoors without someone noticing. The devices also pack a more potent nicotine than traditional cigarettes. The Juul contains twice the concentration as cigarettes.

Although e-cigarettes have been around for more than a decade, vaping rates have increased much in recent years, especially among teens. E-cigarettes are now the most frequently used tobacco product. Some 2.1 million middle and high schoolstudents were e-cigarette users in 2017, which is astonishing.

America’s teens report a dramatic increasein their use of vaping devices. In just a single year, with 37.3 percent of 12th graders reporting  vaping in the past 12 months. Compared to only 27.8 percent in 2017. These researches come from the 2018 Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey of a nationally representative sample of 10th and 12th graders in schools nationwide.

The teen brain is highly sensitive to substances:

The question arises, What does nicotine does to the brain of teenagers, especially in the prefrontal cortex? That plays a crucial role in emotional control, decision making. Like other drugs such as marijuana or alcohol, or any other drug, nicotine has a different impact on a developing brain of teenager than on the brain of an adult. The prefrontal cortex is often at great risk in teens who use substances because it doesn’t finish developing until around age 25.

  • Brain imaging studies of teenagers suggest that those who begin smoking regularly at a young age show less activity. And perform much less on tasks related to memory and attention compared to people who don’t smoke.
  • The risks include nicotine addiction, mood disorders, and permanent lowering of impulse control. Nicotine also changes the way synapses are formed, which can affect the parts of the brain that control attention and learning.


In your teenage years, your brain is still growing. Every time a new memory is created, or new skills are learned. Young people’s brains build synapses much faster than adult brains. The nicotine in e-cigarettes or other tobacco products can also prime the teenage brain for addictionto substances like vaping. The study revealed that the nicotine from e-cigarettes causes the neural stem cells to become loaded with calcium that causes the cells’ mitochondria to swell, and eventually get ruptured. Ultimately, this leads to cell death.


Researchers found that when nine regular users of e-cigs resumed vaping devices following 14 hours, they exhibited some of the same changes in brain function that have been linked to relief from symptoms of withdrawal with combustible cigarettes.

E-cigarettes affected activity in the prefrontal reward network-cigarettes affected activity in the prefrontal reward network. Image courtesy of Dr. Andrea L. Hobkirk.

Meanwhile, the brains of teens who smoke or vape may create more receptors to handle the nicotine they have come to expect. As the number of receptors increases, teens will need more nicotine to get the same high dose. In teens, this can provoke side effects.

  • For instance, it can make it hard for them to stay focused. It might also cause depression or anxiety, research suggests.
  • Brain scientists at VU University Amsterdam exposed adolescent rats to nicotine increased their impulsive behavior. It made them a bit more reckless than usual. It also made it harder for them to focus their attention even later, as adults. No one is sure that the same thing happens in humans, but that’s what can happen. Exposing the developing adolescent brain to nicotine “could lead to a high risk of lifelong addiction,” says Garry Sigman.

Nicotine has significant neurotoxic effects on the developing brain, which has not fully matured in early adolescence and can be negatively impacted by nicotine. Learning, attention, and memory can be affected. Studies have shown e-cigarette use often precedes even to tobacco use. Additionally, nicotine can be a gateway for other drug abuse, particularly in the young teenager.



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