When applying for life insurance, one of the first things you may have to do is to take is a nicotine detection test. Nicotine is found in chewing tobacco and cigarettes and is the chemical responsible for the addictive nature of these products. When testing for nicotine levels in an individual there are a variety of methods that can be used (typically gas-liquid chromatography) but it is actually the detection of cotinine that reveals the most about a person’s exposure to cigarettes.
When nicotine is absorbed into the body, whether by inhaling smoke (by smoking a cigarette or second-hand smoke) or chewing tobacco, the liver begins to process, metabolise, and break down the nicotine. During this process a metabolite called cotinine is formed. What makes cotinine so important to nicotine is the fact that it has a half-life that is nearly 10 times as long as nicotine itself. Detecting nicotine and cotinine to determine smoking habits for life insurance evaluations can be done in a variety of ways including:
Hair Samples – Using hair samples to detect nicotine can be important in long-term reporting because it can reveal nicotine levels as far back as 10 days before the user takes their sample, but on the other hand it can also be very expensive.
Saliva Testing for Nicotine – When testing for nicotine levels with saliva, it gives the tester a very straight-forward and non-invasive testing method that is more cost-effective than hair samples. The downside, however, is that saliva testing doesn’t provide much history so a light smoker than just had a cigarette before their test can appear to have the same habits as someone who smokes 2 packs a day.
Urine Testing for Nicotine – Urine testing is the overall preferred method for measuring someone’s smoking habits because it can easily differentiate passive smokers from active smokers. Much cheaper than blood sampling, cotinine levels can easily be detected to not only get a picture of long-term smoking history but also determine if a user smokes often or is exposed to small amounts of second hand smoke on a daily basis.
The Zoom Testing Nicotine Test Kit detects cotinine in urine within hours of using the drug and possibly up to 2 – 4 days after use (depending on the individual and amount of use). The results obtained using this nictotine test kit are very reliable and can be read within five minutes. This test is a great way for testing for smoking.
Blood Samples – One of the most effective ways to detect cotinine, using blood samples for testing a person’s smoking history can be a very lengthy process. The blood first has to be drawn, and then it has to go through extensive processing in the lab to separate different proteins for testing. Because it is so labour intensive and takes so long, it can be a lot more expensive than both saliva and urine testing.
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This post has been updated since its original publication in 2013.