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New Studies Suggest Vaping Could Cloud Your Thoughts

Monday, December 28, 2020

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. It also appeared that kids were more likely to experience mental fog if they started vaping before the age of 14.

While other studies have found an association between vaping and mental impairment in animals, the URMC team is the first to draw this connection in people. Led by Dongmei Li, Ph.D., associate professor in the Clinical and Translational Science Institute at URMC, the team mined data from two major national surveys.

"Our studies add to growing evidence that vaping should not be considered a safe alternative to tobacco smoking," said study author Li.

The studies, published in the journals Tobacco Induced Diseases and Plos One, analyzed over 18,000 middle and high school student responses to the National Youth Tobacco Survey and more than 886,000 responses to the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System phone survey from U.S. adults. Both surveys ask similar questions about smoking and vaping habits as well as issues with mental function.

Both studies show that people who smoke and vape -- regardless of age -- were most likely to report struggling with mental function. Behind that group, people who only vape or only smoke reported mental fog at similar rates, which were significantly higher than those reported by people who don't smoke or vape.

The youth study also found that students who reported starting to vape early -- between eight and 13 years of age -- were more likely to report difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions than those who started vaping at 14 or older.

"With the recent rise in teen vaping, this is very concerning and suggests that we need to intervene even earlier," said Li. "Prevention programs that start in middle or high school might actually be too late."

Adolescence is a critical period for brain development, especially for higher-order mental function, which means tweens and teens may be more susceptible to nicotine-induced brain changes. While e-cigarettes lack many of the dangerous compounds found in tobacco cigarettes, they deliver the same amount - or possibly more - nicotine.

While the URMC studies clearly show an association between vaping and mental function, it's not clear which causes which. It is possible that nicotine exposure through vaping causes difficulty with mental function. But it is equally possible that people who report mental fog are simply more likely to smoke or vape -- possibly to self-medicate.

Li and her team say that further studies that follow kids and adults over time are needed to parse the cause and effect of vaping and mental fog.

In addition to Li, authors of the youth study include Catherine Xie, and Zidian Xie, Ph.D. For the adult study, Li was joined by co-authors Zidian Xie, Ph.D., Deborah J. Ossip, Ph.D. Irfan Rahman, Ph.D., and Richard J. O'Connor, Ph.D. Both studies were funded by the National Cancer Institute and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's Center for Tobacco Products.

Read More: New Studies Suggest Vaping Could Cloud Your Thoughts

Researchers Find Nationwide Links Between Vaping and COVID-19

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

States with more vapers had larger numbers of daily coronavirus cases and deaths in the early weeks of the pandemic — with New York state as a hot spot, according to an analysis by the University of Rochester Medical Center.

Led by Dongmei Li, Ph.D., an expert in biostatistics at URMC, the study adds to growing national data that links vaping and the coronavirus. Although the current analysis does not provide a direct cause-and-effect between the two, it raises more concerns about vaping, which has also been linked to outbreaks of other illnesses and deaths from the chemicals in vaping products.

The journal Preventive Medicine Reportspublished Li's findings.

"As the country comes to grips with behaviors that may raise or lower risks of contracting COVID-19," Li said, "our study supports the possibility that vaping increases the risk."

Li and her team analyzed integrated population data in each U.S. state from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) 2018 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS). The BRFSS annually surveys about 400,000 Americans on health habits and risks. For this project, researchers focused on vaping data. They also gathered coronavirus cases and deaths from CDC data and other reliable sources, and then used statistical models to examine the prevalence of e-cigarette use and coronavirus infections from Jan. 21, 2020 to April 25, 2020.

The study also found that less education played a role in the number of infections. States with a higher proportion of residents without a high school degree, for example, had higher coronavirus death rates.

Read More: Researchers Find Nationwide Links Between Vaping and COVID-19

Seminar on aerosol transmission of COVID-19

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

This seminar was presented on November 18th as part of the Epidemiology Seminar Series. Dr. Hopke provided an introduction to the nature of particles, particle sizes, and particle behavior in the atmosphere and the respiratory tract, including a discussion of the evidence for aerosol transmission of COVID-19.