Nicotine Test

If you are buying health or life insurance, one of the first questions asked is if you use tobacco products. There was once a time where you could lie and say that you did not smoke or chew. However, nowadays they check medically to determine if you have used any nicotine products.

Every time you use tobacco, nicotine enters your system. It can be detected up to one year after the last time you smoked or used the tobacco. The tests are remarkably accurate in determining tobacco use. In this article, we will learn about how a nicotine test works and how long you can expect a positive result.

4. How Do Nicotine Tests Work?


A medical professional will collect a sample of hair, saliva, blood, or urine to check for nicotine use. A nicotine test does not look for actual nicotine, but the byproduct known as cotinine.

Dr. Anis Rehman, an assistant professor of the Department of Internal Medicine at Southern Illinois University, explains, “In the body, nicotine is broken into its derivatives, the most important being cotinine. Cotinine usually lasts much longer than nicotine in the body. Therefore, most smoking tests look for cotinine.”

A nicotine test does not discriminate against how you use the nicotine. It simply reveals the presence of the substance. If you use nicotine replacement therapy to kick a tobacco habit, then you will still test positive. The nicotine test also checks for anabasine, which is a tobacco compound that shows up in nicotine replacements like gum or patches.

You can also test positive for nicotine if you live with a heavy smoker or are around friends who smoke. The test will show lower levels of cotinine, but it will show the presence if even you are a non-smoker. Someone exposed to secondhand smoke will have less than less than 5 ng/ml.

However, the level of nicotine in a non-smoker still might spur an insurance company to give you a higher rate if they think you live with a heavy smoker, because secondhand smoke exposure can also cause certain cancers, heart disease, and stroke.

3. How Long Nicotine Lasts in Your System


Cotinine levels depend on the sample collected and tested:

  • Blood: Nicotine shows up in blood for at least three days after smoking, and cotinine can hang around in the blood for 10 days.
  • Urine: A regular smoker will have cotinine and nicotine levels in their urine for three weeks after their last smoke. An infrequent smoker might only have detectable levels in their urine for four days after smoking. Cotinine can last from seven to 10 days within an infrequent user’s urine.
  • Saliva: Nicotine and cotinine show up in the saliva for around four days.
  • Hair: Nicotine stays in the hair for around three months but will remain in the hair strand for a year in a heavy smoker.


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