Grant to study vaping’s impact on youth brains

Daisy Dai, PhD

UNMC College of Public Health faculty recently received a research grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse to fund research on the health effects of Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems on youth. 

ENDS, which are battery-powered devices that generate aerosols by heating a liquid solution, are the most-used tobacco product among adolescents since 2014. This has made their use a major public health concern. While vaping with an ENDS can negatively impact brain development among adolescents, the health effects are understudied.

The new funding will allow a research team to investigate the impacts of ENDS use on youth brain functions and the resultant cognitive outcomes. This groundbreaking research will longitudinally assess a nationally representative sample of more than 10,000 U.S. youth aged 9-10 years at baseline from 21 study sites, with follow-ups for 10 years.

The study will integrate existing National Institutes of Health toolbox cognition battery and magnetic resonance imaging data with semiannual assessments and annual behavioral measures of substance use. By doing this, researchers will tease out the confounding effects due to co-use and transition to other substances.

The resulting dataset will provide a comprehensive assessment of the impact smoking and vaping have on neurocognition.

“This new funding is a natural progression of our years of work seeking to comprehend the health effects of ENDS use among adolescents and advance health equity in communities most affected by tobacco use,” said Daisy Dai, PhD, the principal investigator and associate dean of research at the UNMC College of Public Health. “These communities often lack the resources to address the associated health implications.”

Dr. Dai added: “Our previous research has resulted in several impactful publications, including the Journal of the American Medical Association. The findings from this large-scale study will provide timely evidence to guide public health officials in mitigating the addiction crisis and safeguarding vulnerable populations.”

In this National Institutes of Health-funded R01 study, Dr. Dai will collaborate with researchers at UNMC, Boys Town National Research Hospital, the University of Western Ontario and the University of California, San Francisco to better understand the health effects of ENDS use on brain maturation.

Researchers hope the research will inform effective regulatory actions and policies, including making decisions about potential risks of ENDS use to public health.


  1. Siwei Zhao says:

    Congratulations Dr. Dai!

  2. Kajal Kamra says:

    Congratulations, Dr. Dai!!

  3. Karsten Bartels says:


  4. Amy Steinauer says:

    This is so needed. Thanks for taking this on!!

  5. Ken Zoucha says:

    Such important work! Walking through one of our outdoor malls on Saturday evening, we witnessed a group of 10 teen boys, only one was not vaping. I know that is anecdotal, but there are a lot of teens using ENDS to deliver nicotine and cannabis. This information will be crucial as we work on prevention and treatment strategies. Thanks Dr. Dai for your tireless work!

  6. James Dong says:

    Congratulation! Dr. Dai

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