Dangers of Adolescent E-Cigarette Use on Brain Development

E-cigarettes are the most commonly used form of tobacco among adolescents in the United States. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that e-cigarettes have become so popular among young people due to their “easy availability, alluring advertisement, e-liquid flavors, and the belief that they are safer than cigarettes.” Along with exposing users to serious injuries such as heart attacks, strokes, and seizures, frequent use of highly addictive e-cigarettes like JUUL can permanently alter the developing brain.

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How Common is Adolescent E-Cigarette Use?

According to the National Safety Council’s report based on the University of Michigan’s annual survey results in January 2019, the percentage of teenagers who reported vaping within the last twelve months has increased to record levels.


The most drastic increase within the last year occurred with high school seniors, 37% of whom indicated that they had vaped in 2018. That represented a 9% increase since 2017. Equally startling statistics were reported regarding sophomores in high school; 32.3% reported vaping in 2018 compared to 23.9% in 2017. Additionally, the percentage of ninth graders who said they have vaped at least once in their lifetime rose from 35.8% in 2017 to 42.5% in 2018.

In a December 2018 press conference, U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams declared e-cigarette use among adolescents an “epidemic.”

What is the Impact of E-Cigarette Use on the Brain?

Until the age of 25, the human brain has not fully developed. As a result, during the adolescent years the part of the brain that is responsible for decision making and impulse control—the pre-frontal cortex—has not reached maturity. Therefore, injuries that occur within the brain during this time period result in higher risk of permanent damage.

Nicotine addiction is a common and frightening result of e-cigarette use. When the nicotine found in the e-cigarettes’ “e-liquids” is absorbed by the lungs and into the bloodstream, it stimulates the adrenal glands to release the adrenaline hormone. That release of adrenaline triggers the central nervous system to increase blood pressure, breathing, and heart rate.

Nicotine also activates the brain’s reward circuits by increasing the production of dopamine. The chemical dopamine reinforces nicotine consumption due to the rush of pleasure that accompanies the dopamine release. In order to continue the dopamine production and consequent chemical pleasure, nicotine consumption increases and may lead to nicotine addiction.

The developing brain creates more synapses—the pathways formed when new memories are made or skills are practiced—than the developed brain. As a result, when more synapses are created pertaining to the use of e-cigarettes and the corresponding exposure to nicotine, the likelihood of nicotine addiction increases.

In addition to the elevated risk of addiction from exposing the developing brain to nicotine, there is an increased risk of mood disorders, lessened attention span and learning capacity, and permanently decreased impulse control.

What Should I Do if My Loved One has been Harmed by E-Cigarettes? 

If you or a loved one has developed a nicotine addiction or suffered a heart attack, stroke, or lung injury after the use of a JUUL vaping device, contact the Minneapolis E-cigarette attorneys at GoldenbergLaw. With over 30 years of experience holding corporate wrongdoers accountable, we deliver the Gold standard advocacy you deserve.


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