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Nicotine testing: How long does nicotine stay in your system?

Nicotine testing is becoming increasingly more popular these days as many businesses now require verifiable lab results to determine employee eligibility for their health insurance programs.  Obviously, smokers are more prone to heart disease, respiratory disorders, and especially several forms of cancer.  As a result, many organizations may even require job applicants to undergo a nicotine test before offering a potential prospect a permanent position with their firm.

One of the major flaws with this strategy is that so many insurance companies fail to differentiate between high-risk tobacco use (combustible cigarettes, chewing tobacco) and tobacco-free vaping products, which are approximately 95 percent less harmful than smoking according to Public Health England.  Much like the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), insurance companies tend to lump vaping and smoking into the single category of “tobacco products.”

Related Article:  Tobacco expert: ‘People smoke for nicotine, but they die from tar’

The conflation of smoking with vaping likely stems from the fact that both products contain nicotine.  Unfortunately, a recent Rutgers University study entitled Nicotine Risk Misperception Among US Physicians indicates that 77 percent of American physicians surveyed wrongly believe that nicotine – not smoking - causes cancer.  To be clear, it is the tar derived from the burning of tobacco leaves that causes most of the smoking-related illness and death – not the nicotine.

Until insurance companies and, indeed, the medical community and even the FDA, recognize the scientific distinctions between combustible, highly carcinogenic, tar-filled tobacco smoke and the vapor produced from tobaccoless vapes, nicotine testing will likely continue to gain in popularity.  

Nicotine, vaping, and the different types of nicotine tests

Before agreeing to take a nicotine test, both smokers and vapers need to be aware that nicotine usually stays in the human body for at least three days.  Depending on the type of test involved, evidence of past nicotine use can be detected for up to three months in many cases.

In general, it takes about 72 hours for the enzymes within the body to thoroughly break down the nicotine before expelling the deconstructed cotinine through the kidneys and digestive system. Even then, some of the more sophisticated saliva tests for nicotine can identify the presence of cotinine in the human body for up to ten days.

Whether smoking cigarettes, vaping, chewing tobacco, or even just being around second-hand cigarette smoke for an extended period, chances are that a measurable amount of nicotine will show up in the laboratory results within the first three days of usage. 

Related Article:  Rutgers survey: 77% of doctors mistakenly believe nicotine (not smoking) causes cancer

Blood tests can be the more precise and the more expensive method of nicotine testing.  Some blood tests provide a simple positive or negative result while the more elaborate kinds provide an itemized readout of all nefarious contaminants and their precise measurement levels in the blood stream. 

Urine tests are the most common and can usually detect nicotine in the body for up to three or four days maximum.  However, if the company is requiring the employee or prospect to participate in a hair follicle test for nicotine, watch out.  The hair test is the most scientifically advanced of all – with capabilities of detecting the presence of nicotine in the body for up to three months.

Related Article:  Study: Unlike e-cig vapor, cigarette smoke contains deadly carbon monoxide

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