Many employers today require you to test for nicotine- either to determine the cost of health insurance or as a condition for employment. So as a vape lover, you may ask, “how long can nicotine stay in my body?” 

What you need to know about nicotine
Oftentimes, nicotine is considered a health risk not only to cigarette smokers but also to people using safer forms of nicotine, like vaping products. Hence, these two groups of people are often seen to be equal. Even the use of nicotine gums- which is FDA-approved for long-term use – can be tagged a health risk by employers.

And this might cause the cost of insurance to increase.

Most insurance companies consider a positive result for nicotine test as an indicator that the subject is a tobacco or nicotine replacement therapy product user.

But looking at the question, “how long does nicotine stay in the body,” beware that most tests do not even look for nicotine per se. We’ll talk about that later in this piece.

How long does nicotine stay in your body?
Although there are many tests to detect the presence of nicotine in the blood, it’s quite hard to detect nicotine in the urine after four days, and in the blood after one to three days. That’s one of the reasons why many employees tend to ignore how long nicotine stays in your body.

What they test for instead is the presence of a substance called nicotine- a nicotine metabolite. The liver converts nicotine to nicotine and the remains can be easily detected in the body within three weeks of nicotine intake.

However, the length of time nicotine stays in your body varies based on different factors, including gender, ethnic background, diet, and medications consumed.
For example, studies have shown that men retain nicotine longer in their system than women.

The advance in scientific methods has caused changes on the “cut-points” above which a person is considered positive for nicotine.

Testing methods for nicotine
There are different tests available to measure nicotine levels in the body, including:

Blood testing
Blood testing detects both nicotine and nicotine accurately. However, it is an invasive testing method and it’s the most expensive. That’s why it is used less frequently.

You may wonder why this method is expensive. Well, to draw blood, a trained technician is needed coupled with a visit to a lab. This makes the process costly and cumbersome for both employer and employee.

That said, there are two kinds of blood tests for nicotine. One can specify the amount of nicotine metabolite in the blood. The other simply gives a positive or negative measure.

Urine testing
Urine is one of the major choices for detecting a low concentration of nicotine. It involves soaking a test strip in urine for a few minutes. This test quickly delivers a positive or negative result.

Saliva testing
Saliva is the most sensitive method used to test for nicotine. Many insurance companies and labs use this testing method. And that’s mainly because saliva tests can detect about one-third the amount of nicotine that blood testing can detect and about one-fifteenth of what urine testing can detect.

Saliva testing for nicotine is often carried out using kits supplied by third-party labs.

The process involves taking a swap of the person’s mouth and inserting it into a self-sealing container that is taken to the lav. The results are sent online or by phone to the insurance company or employer.

The advantage of saliva testing is that it is cost-efficient and does not waste time.

Hair testing
The most reliable method to test for nicotine is hair testing. However, it is the most expensive and difficult method.

Hair testing is often used in scientific studies and it is ordered if the result from other tests is questioned.

This method is more accurate because hair samples retain nicotine for up to three months.

How can I avoid testing positive?
If you search online, there are some products that are said to “cleanse the body” of nicotine in few days. However, their effectiveness is questionable.

You can get a chance of testing negative after a week without nicotine. And the majority will test negative after two weeks. But if you’re a heavy smoker, you might still test positive after two weeks.

So the best thing to do if you want to test negative is to stay away from nicotine two weeks before your test. You can also drink a lot of water to flush your system and clear every trace of nicotine.

Is it every insurance company that tests for nicotine?
Most insurance companies do conduct nicotine (or nicotine) tests for their health insurance and sometimes life insurance customers.

Some companies are now allowing policyholders to use smokeless tobacco or vape and still be eligible for non-smoker rates. A few companies even allow the smoking of cigars without raising their rates.

If you intend to sign in for life insurance, it is advisable that you shop around and inquire about their policies as regards reduced-risk nicotine use.

We only hope that in the nearest future, employers and insurance companies will realize the difference in risk between smoking tobacco and using safer forms of nicotine, such as vaping. That way, they will stop punishing snus uses and vapers.

Final Remark
Now that you know that nicotine can last up to two weeks in your body, the best thing to do is to abstain from nicotine products two weeks or longer before a test period.

You can consider talking with your employer to make them see reasons why they should encourage smokers in your company to quit smoking and switch to low-risk nicotine alternatives like vaping.