On the potential harmful effects of E-Cigarettes (EC) on the developing brain: The relationship between vaping-induced oxidative stress and adolescent/young adults social maladjustment

J Adolesc. 2019 Oct:76:202-209. doi: 10.1016/j.adolescence.2019.09.004. Epub 2019 Sep 28.


Introduction: Evidence suggests that in convenience stores across the United States (U.S), sales of e-cigarettes (EC) continue to grow, indicating their rising popularity. ECs have been touted as a means for traditional cigarette (TC) smokers to quit smoking. However, the dramatic increase in the number of adolescents and young adults using e-cigarettes (vaping) in America is a cause for concern as their long-term effects remain unknown.

Methods: Search was done by accessing PubMed/Medline, EBSCO, and PsycINFO databases. The search string used was "(Cigarettes OR E-Cigarettes* OR Vaping) AND (Oxidative Stress* OR Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS)) AND (Adolescents OR Teens OR Young Adults)". The electronic databases were searched for titles or abstracts containing these terms in all published articles between January 1, 1970, and June 30, 2019. Over 3000 articles were found in the first round of search which was filtered to 129 articles.

Results: Oxidative Stress is a critical underlying molecular factor that drives the harmful effects of traditional cigarettes. The developing brain is particularly vulnerable to the harmful effects of oxidative stress and e-cigarettes just like traditional cigarettes induces oxidative stress. Many e-cigarette components including the flavoring, vapor, e-liquids and metallic coil, trigger oxidative stress, indicating that both nicotine and non-nicotine e-cigarette use may be harmful.

Conclusions: E-cigarettes use could potentially play a role in adolescent/young adults social maladjustments including poor learning and academic performance, increased aggressive and impulsive behavior, poor sleep quality, attention deficits, impaired memory, and cognition, and increased depression and suicidal ideation. The government, parents, school authorities and clinicians should be advised on these potentially harmful effects.

Keywords: Aggressive and impulsive behavior; Cognitive impairment; Developing brain; E-Cigarettes; E-juice; E-liquids; Harmful effects; Insomnia; Metallic coils; Oxidative stress; Poor academic performance; Sleep; Social maladjustment; Vaping; Vapor condensate.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Brain / growth & development
  • Female
  • Flavoring Agents / adverse effects
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Oxidative Stress / drug effects*
  • Social Adjustment*
  • United States
  • Vaping / adverse effects*
  • Young Adult


  • Flavoring Agents