How Long Does Nicotine Stay in Your System

How Long Does Nicotine Stay in Your System

How Long Does Nicotine Stay in Your System?

Why test for nicotine at all?


Vaping is considered an alternative to smoking, but in some states, employers and insurance companies can use nicotine testing to discriminate against vapers—even though cigarette smokers will test positive for nicotine days or even weeks after a cigarette.


When it comes to the effects of smoking on general health, there is no debate. Cigarettes kill. And that’s why insurance companies are using the presence of nicotine as a reliable indicator that the test subject is a tobacco user or a user of nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) products, which usually means an ex-smoker (and someone likely to return to smoking).


How long does nicotine stay in your body?

To be clear, we’re talking about nicotine here, not marijuana. While there are tests to measure nicotine in the human body, it’s hard to detect in the blood after one to three days, or in the urine after four days. That’s why most employers and insurance companies no longer concern themselves with how long nicotine stays in your body.


Can nicotine stay in your system? The answer to this question is complicated. It depends on many factors, such as whether you smoke cigarettes or e-cigarettes, how much you smoke and for how long, if you’re a woman or a man and the level of cotinine testing used.


Different nicotine tests

Blood testing

Blood testing can reveal cotinine levels in your blood up to a few days after you smoke. This test is much more accurate than urine testing for finding nicotine and can detect both nicotine and cotinine in the system. But it does have its downsides; it requires a trained technician and a visit to a lab, which makes it expensive and cumbersome for both employee and employer.


Saliva testing

Saliva testing for cotinine is often done by employers using kits supplied by third-party labs. Usually a swab of the person’s mouth is done, and the swab is inserted into a self-sealing container that is then shipped to the lab. The results are then returned to the employer or insurance company online or by phone. This is far less expensive and time-consuming than sending each employee to a lab for blood testing.


Urine testing

Urine testing is the best way to accurately measure cotinine. Recent evidence suggests that urine drug tests have higher sensitivity than saliva and blood testing—as much as six times more sensitive. A urine test can also measure lower concentrations of cotinine, which may be more difficult to detect using other methods.


Hair testing

Hair testing can be used to confirm cotinine levels. It is more accurate, but also more expensive and time consuming than other tests. The benefit for scientists studying smoking and nicotine is that hair samples can retain cotinine for as long as three months. Hair testing may be ordered if the results of other tests are unclear or in doubt and/or to help gather data for studies in the future.


How can I avoid testing positive?

In fact, the vast majority of people can test negative for nicotine within two weeks. Save your money and buy some nicotine-free e-liquid (you’re going to need it if you don’t want to go back to smoking). Drink plenty of water to flush your system, too.


Do all insurance companies test for nicotine?

Many life insurance companies are currently testing for nicotine but only against smokers. If you’re using e-cigarettes and want to find an affordable life insurance policy, it may pay to shop around and ask questions about their policy toward reduced-risk nicotine use. In the future, we hope employers and insurance companies will recognize the difference in risk between smoking and safer forms of nicotine use, and stop punishing vapers and snus users.

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