The liquid used in electronic cigarettes has been linked to a significantly higher risk of respiratory viral infections, whether the liquid contains nicotine or not, according to a published study by researchers at National Jewish Health in Denver.

E-cigarette Image/Jakemaheu at the wikipedia project
Image/Jakemaheu at the wikipedia project

“We took cells from the airways of young, healthy non-smokers and exposed them to the liquid or vapors from e-cigarettes in the lab and in as little as 10 minutes we saw a dramatic reaction,” said Hong Wei Chu, MD, director of the Basic Science Section at National Jewish Health and leader of the study. “The cells showed a strong pro-inflammatory response and the risk of viral infection in those cells rose significantly,” he said.

The findings come as the popularity of e-cigarettes is surging, particularly in young people. In 2010 less than 2 percent of adults in the U.S. had tried e-cigarettes. Last year that number topped 40 million, an increase of more than 620 percent. The number of children and teenagers who use them is on the rise as well.

“In the last 4 or 5 years, it’s exploded,” said David Tinkelman, MD, medical director of health initiatives at National Jewish Health. “Unfortunately, the science behind e-cigarettes has not exploded at the same time. We still don’t fully understand the effects e-cigarettes have on our bodies or the risks they might pose,” he said.

Read the rest of the National Jewish Health news release HERE