Tag: Smoking

Does smoking increase your risk for dementia and cognitive decline?

Photo by Abhishek Koli on Unsplash

Scientists from the Uniformed Services University (USU), Emory University and the University of Vermont have found that cigarette smoking is linked to increased lesions in the brain’s white matter, called white matter hyperintensities.  White matter hyperintensities, detected by MRI scan, are associated with cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease. These findings may help explain the link between smoking and increased rates of dementia and other forms of cognitive decline.

The study, “Associations of cigarette smoking with gray and white matter in the UK Biobank” was published online in the journal, Neuropsychopharmacology, https://rdcu.be/b1jPS

In June 2019, the Surgeons General of the Army, Navy, Air Force, and United States, released an open letter stating that tobacco use is a threat to the health and fitness of U.S. military forces and compromises readiness. This burden also extends to care provided by the Veterans Health Administration, which spends more than $2.5 billion annually on smoking-related care.  In response, Dr. Joshua Gray, assistant professor of Medical and Clinical Psychology and Neuroscience at USU, and colleagues, examined the association between cigarette smoking and brain structure. Cigarette smoking is associated with increased risk for myriad health consequences including increased risk for neuropsychiatric conditions, but research on the link between smoking and brain structure is limited.

Their study was the largest of its kind, including MRI brain scans from more than 17,000 individuals from the UK Biobank, a large cohort of volunteers from across the United Kingdom. They found that smoking was associated with smaller total gray and white matter volume, increased white matter lesions, and variation in specific gray matter regions and white matter tracts. By controlling for important variables that often co-occur with smoking, such as alcohol use, this study identified distinct associations between smoking and brain structure, highlighting potential mechanisms of risk for common neuropsychiatric consequences of smoking such as depression and dementia.

“Cigarette smoking is known to elevate risk for neuropsychiatric conditions such as depression and dementia. We found that smoking is associated with multiple aspects of brain structure, in particular with increased white matter lesions. White matter lesions are linked to many of the same neuropsychiatric diseases as smoking,” said Gray.  “Although further research is needed to understand to what extent smoking is a cause or consequence of these aspects of brain structure, our findings suggest a mechanism that links smoking to increased risk for dementia, depression, and other brain diseases.”

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Marijuana Use in E-Cigarettes Increases Among Youth

Photo by Kimzy Nanney

A study published today online in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) found marijuana use in electronic cigarettes has been increasing among U.S. middle and high school students from 2017 to 2018.

In the observational study, Hongying “Daisy” Dai, Ph.D., associate professor, University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Public Health used the National Youth Tobacco Survey to analyze responses from 38,000 students, grades 6-12. Dr. Dai, who has been studying e-cigarette use for five years, said e-cigarettes recently have increased very quickly among adolescents.

Among all students, the proportion who reported ever using marijuana in an e-cigarette increased from 11.1% in 2017 to 14.7% in 2018. The increases were seen among some demographic groups, including adolescents age 13 to 17 and Caucasian and Hispanic students.

“These statistics are very concerning as marijuana use in adolescence could lead to adverse effects in brain development, mental health and academic performance,” said Dr. Dai, a biostatistician. “Our other concern is e-cigarette use has also been related to severe respiratory diseases.

As of Nov. 20, Dr. Dai noted there had been 2,290 vaping-related lung injury cases and 47 deaths. About 77% of the cases were in people with a history of vaping products containing THC, the mind-altering ingredient found in the cannabis plant.

In 2018, the number of students using marijuana in e-cigarettes included:

  • 42.7% of students who ever used e-cigarettes;
  • 53.5% of current e-cigarette users; and
  • 71.6% of multiple tobacco product users. 

Dr. Dai said the increase in marijuana use in e-cigarettes could be attributable to:

  • the increase of “pod mod” e-cigarette products – small, easy-to-conceal devices that aerosolize liquid solutions containing nicotine, flavoring and other contents;
  • access to marijuana through informal sources such as friends, family members and illicit dealers; and
  • reduced perception among adolescents of the harms of marijuana use.

“Parents really need to raise their awareness about vaping. E-cigarette products look much like school supplies, so it’s hard for parents to know if their child is using e-cigarettes,” she said. “Even for me, it’s hard to distinguish between school supplies and e-cigarette products.”

She said a limitation of the study is that the information was self-reported. She added that studies about the short- and long-term health effects of using marijuana in e-cigarettes need to be done.

The study was supported by the National Cancer Institute and U.S. Food and Drug Administration Center for Tobacco Products.

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