Can vaping cause seizures?

  • January 26, 2023
  • 4
In this article
Man vaping while looking at his laptop

Did you know that eight percent of people vape in the US? And using e-cigarettes is especially popular among high school students - about 16% use them regularly.  

Although vaping is generally regarded as safer than using traditional tobacco products such as cigarettes, it still comes with some dangers. If you have epilepsy, it’s important to be aware that there does appear to be a link between vaping and seizures. 

So, can vaping cause seizures? Let’s find out more about the possible links. 

Can vaping cause seizures?

Right now, there’s no concrete evidence that vaping definitely causes seizures. But, there does seem to be a correlation. 

In 2019, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reported that over the previous 10 years, there were 114 times where people reported they’d had seizures soon after vaping. That might not seem like a lot, but these were only the cases where people actively contacted the FDA to tell them what happened. 

The FDA then started a campaign to get the public to contact them if they had seizures after vaping. By 2021, there were more than 250 new reports. This suggests that many more people might be experiencing this, but they just haven’t told the authorities.  

There have also been several ‘case reports’ (individual examples written by doctors) about vaping and seizures. These reports show that the patients often had seizures very soon after vaping, which seem to suggest there’s a link. 

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How can vape pens cause seizures?

We don’t know for sure if vape pens do actually cause seizures. It could just be a coincidence that people happen to have seizures after vaping. 

Still, there are a few possible explanations of why this might be happening:

  • Nicotine overdose: Vape pens contain the addictive drug nicotine. Sometimes, people might vape a capsule that contains a much higher dose of nicotine than they’re used to. Nicotine can ‘excite’ your brain cells, and this might be causing people to have seizures. While this might explain the link between seizures and vaping, experts have pointed out that seizures are still quite a rare reaction to nicotine poisoning. 
  • Other drugs: Sometimes people put other drugs in their e-cigarettes, including CBD and amphetamines - these may be responsible for the seizures. E-cigarettes also contain other chemicals that might be behind the vaping and seizures link. 
  • Underlying seizure disorder: It could just be the case that people who have seizures after vaping have undiagnosed epilepsy. Since nicotine can ‘excite’ brain cells, using e-cigarettes might be a seizure trigger for them. 

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Can you vape if you have epilepsy?

Although vaping is generally considered to be less harmful than smoking cigarettes, it still comes with a range of health risks for everyone, including people with epilepsy. In an ideal world, it’s simply better for your health to not vape if possible. 

That said, it depends why you’re vaping. If you’ve chosen to use e-cigarettes as part of a plan to stop smoking altogether, then it might be a reasonable option - so long as you discuss this with your epilepsy specialist. While we don’t yet have enough information on the risks of vaping and seizures, we do know that people with epilepsy who smoke cigarettes have more seizures than those who don’t. So, if you’re vaping to cut out tobacco, then it’s arguably better.

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