Testing for Cigarettes and Tobacco Smoking

In today’s day and age it is fairly simple to test if someone has been using tobacco or cigarettes. Screening for tobacco usage can be done quite easily with a cotinine / nicotine test kit which can be purchased on the Zoom Testing website.

Why Using Tobacco is a Problem
Extended use of tobacco can bring about an elevated chance of getting asthma, lung cancer, heart disease, strokes, blood clotting and respiratory infections. Women who are pregnant and smoke have a much greater likelihood that their babies will weigh significantly less at birth and are more prone to birth defects.

Because using tobacco can dramatically affect your health, some companies use a cotinine/nicotine test when screening possible new employees. Likewise, health and life insurance companies are more likely to test for cotinine or nicotine in the applicant’s system.

How to Check for Nicotine

Measuring both cotinine and nicotine both in quality (qualitative) quantity (quantitative). The qualitative test is achieved by first seeing if cotinine/nicotine is present. If it is then a quantitative test is done. The quantitative test is achieved by measuring the total amount of cotinine/nicotine in the body. This test can help identify the smoker classification:

  • People who don’t smoke and have not been exposed to a large amount of tobacco in the environment;
  • People who don’t smoke but are exposed to it in their environment/home;
  • People who stopped smoking recently;
  • People who active smoke.

Contine can also be detected in saliva or hair. But keep in mind the testing of hair is generally done to measure the exposure of second hand smoke by non-smokers. A physician may do a cotinine/nicotine test if a person has overdosed on nicotine.

How to Read a Test of Nicotine

The amount of nicotine circulating in the blood may increase quickly when smoking a cigarette. The exact nicotine amount circulating in the blood depends on the type of cigarette and the exact method of smoking and how deep they inhale and exhale.

Urine testing is more accurate than blood or saliva tests to detect the amount of nicotine circulating in the system. However the amount of nicotine can vary greatly from one person to another and depends and can vary greatly due to the genetics of the individual person to metabolize the nicotine and how quickly the body can get rid of the cotinine.

When a person stops using tobacco, it may take up to 14 days for the cotinine level to decline to the level of non-smokers. It will take a few more weeks for the cotinine level in the urine to decline.

Usually if the level of cotinine/nicotine is high, it indicates that person is actively using tobacco or nicotine products or even a patch. If the level is medium it suggests that the person hasn’t used nicotine or tobacco for a few weeks. If the levels of cotinine/nicotine are lower it can indicate the person doesn’t use tobacco but is exposed to it in his or her environment. For people who never smoked there can be scant detection of cotinine /nicotine in their body. But the small levels do not affect health.

What Should You Know About Cotinine/Nicotine Testing?

You should not compare cotinine/nicotine tests with other people because there are various ways to conduct the tests. They can be done with saliva, blood or urine and all yield different results. Keep in mind nicotine is not just found in tobacco, it can be found in other products that use in everyday use such as tomatoes, red peppers and potatoes. The amounts of nicotine in these are much lower than in tobacco. A non-smoker who eats these foods in a basic diet will not set off the cotinine/nicotine test to indicate that they are a smoker.

This post has been updated since its original publication in 2013.

Photo Credit: “ofer smoke” (CC BY 2.0) by raindog808