How Long Does Nicotine Stay in Your System? (2022)

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Whenever you smoke or chew tobacco or inhale secondhand smoke from a cigarette, nicotine is absorbed into your bloodstream.

From there, enzymes in your liver break most of the nicotine down into cotinine. The amount of cotinine will increase with the amount of nicotine you ingest. These substances are eventually eliminated through your kidneys as urine.

Cotinine, nicotine’s main breakdown product, may be used to determine if someone was exposed to nicotine.

According to a 2016 review of literature, cotinine has high sensitivity and a longer half-life compared to other breakdown products of nicotine. Testing for it can usually differentiate people who smoke cigarettes from people who may have had indirect exposure.

How long it stays in your system will depend on how you ingested the nicotine and how frequently it is ingested.

Keep reading to learn how long nicotine can be detected in your urine, blood, saliva, and hair.


If I smoke one cigarette, how much nicotine will I ingest?

(Video) How Long Nicotine & Toxins Stay in Your System

Anonymous patient

Cotinine has a half-life of about 16 hours, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). However, it may be as long as 40 hours, according to a 2016 research review. A half-life refers to the number of hours before half of the cotinine will have left your system.

However, tests for this metabolite can detect cotinine even after it has reached this point.

Concentrations of cotinine in urine are about 4 to 6 times higher than in blood plasma or saliva.

A 2019 study used cotinine urine tests on people preparing for bariatric surgery to determine adherence to pre-surgery instructions. According to the study’s authors, the cotinine urine test provided high sensitivity and specificity for smoking in at least the previous 72 hours.

Another study from 2020 found that cotinine may still be detectable in urine for at least 8 weeks.

However, the way each person’s body metabolizes nicotine to create cotinine is different. Genetic differences can also affect the amount of time cotinine is detectable in your body.

According to research summarized by the CDC, non-Hispanic Black Americans may metabolize cotinine more slowly than non-Hispanic white Americans.

A positive urine test can depend on when you provide a urine sample relative to the last time you ingested nicotine. If you’re a current smoker, the test show urine cotinine levels of 1,000 to 8,000 ng/mL.

People who smoke but go 2 weeks without nicotine exposure before testing may show urine cotinine levels of less than 50 ng/mL.

Each lab may have different reference ranges for positivity, so it’s important to discuss the results with a doctor or technician.

People with heavy exposure to secondhand smoke may test at levels between 1 and 10 ng/mL.

How long will traces of nicotine be present in your blood and saliva?

(Video) How Long Does Nicotine Stay in Your System? (TRUTH)

Nicotine can be measured in your blood and saliva, but because cotinine has a longer half-life, testing for cotinine is typically preferred. According to 2016 research, the half-life of cotinine is the same whether tested for in your blood plasma, urine, or saliva.

However, all of these molecules have different cut-off points for detection. Some sources estimate that it may be detectable at least 3 days after exposure.

A 2012 review that looked at methods for assessing environmental exposure to cigarette smoke found that blood cotinine levels may reach their half-life in less than 1 day.

Saliva and blood have a lower concentration of cotinine than urine. The amount of cotinine in your saliva or blood may reach cut-off levels for detection sooner than testing using urine samples.

The exact length of time that cotinine is detectable in your blood may vary depending on your genetic makeup and the amount of nicotine that you were exposed to. Testing with blood may also be less sensitive than testing with urine. This could lead to false negatives or positives.

Nicotine in your blood can be detected using tests that are qualitative (whether or not nicotine is present) and quantitative (how much nicotine is present). These tests can detect nicotine, cotinine, and another breakdown product called anabasine.

Traces of nicotine can generally be found in your hair follicles for up to weeks, months, or even years after your last exposure, according to a 2021 review of literature. This can depend on the hair test administered as well as genetic factors.

But the authors of the review suggest that the results of hair testing may not correlate with blood testing. Hair testing may also show passive or environmental exposure to tobacco smoke.

Although hair testing is possible, it is not used as frequently as urine, saliva, or blood testing.


How can I determine how much nicotine is in my system? Are there tests that I can do at home?

Anonymous patient

(Video) COA Tobacco Screening


Yes, there are over-the-counter tests that can measure nicotine in either saliva or urine.

Answers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.

How long nicotine stays in your system can vary from person to person. Depending on your individual circumstances, nicotine may flush from your system sooner or even last longer.

According to 2010 research, the following factors may influence how long nicotine and its metabolites are detectable in your system:

  • How much you smoke. The amount of cotinine in your urine is correlated with your nicotine exposure.
  • Your genetic makeup. Each person metabolizes cotinine differently. According to the CDC, non-Hispanic Black people may metabolize cotinine more slowly than non-Hispanic white people.
  • Liver function. Cotinine is oxidized by the liver. Depending on your liver function, you may metabolize cotinine at a different rate.
  • Age. If you’re over 65 years old, your body may take longer to clear nicotine.
  • Diet and medication. Because clearing nicotine depends on your liver, the researchers predict that meals and medications may affect how your body processes nicotine.
  • Sex and hormonal differences. According to the 2010 research, which classified individuals as men and women, nicotine clearance and cotinine were higher in women. They also found that using oral contraceptives increased clearance as well.
  • Kidney function. Kidney failure can decrease the rate at which the body clears nicotine and cotinine.

The best way to clear nicotine out of your system is to avoid tobacco products. If you smoke, consider quitting. This way, cells in your body can focus on breaking down nicotine and removing it.

There are several things you can do to speed up this process:

(Video) How long Does Nicotine Stay in the Body or System

  • Drink water. When you drink more water, more nicotine is released from your body through urine.
  • Exercise. This increases your body’s metabolism rate, which may lead you to clear nicotine faster. Sweat released through exercise takes nicotine and its byproducts with it.
  • Eat foods rich in antioxidants. Antioxidants can help boost your body’s metabolism rate. Options can include oranges and carrots. These foods also contain compounds like fiber.

Nicotine is the primary addictive component in cigarettes.

In small doses, nicotine can act as a stimulant, similar to coffee or cocaine. When ingested in larger quantities, nicotine becomes a relaxant. It may decrease tension and anxiety.

Ingesting smaller amounts of nicotine or abstaining from nicotine entirely can cause symptoms of withdrawal.

Symptoms of withdrawal can include:

  • intense desire for tobacco
  • increased hunger
  • fatigue
  • lack of concentration
  • headache
  • constipation
  • nausea
  • diarrhea
  • irritability
  • anxiety
  • depression
  • insomnia

Your symptoms may be most intense in the first few hours after smoking your last cigarette. These symptoms often lessen in severity after the first 3 days of being smoke-free.

Your individual symptoms and their potential duration depend on several factors, including:

  • how long you’ve been smoking
  • the type of tobacco products you used
  • how much you smoke on a day-to-day basis

If you would like to quit smoking, over-the-counter and prescription medications may help.

Nicotine replacement therapies (NRTs), such as nicotine patches, can help ease withdrawal symptoms as you decrease the amount of nicotine ingested over time.

According to, which was created by the National Cancer Institute, using an NRT doubles your chances of quitting completely. If you opt to use an NRT, you’ll still have detectable amounts of nicotine in your body until you cease all nicotine exposure.

Combining an NRT with a nicotine patch may be more effective than either product on its own.

If you smoke, traces of nicotine can be found in your hair, blood, urine, and saliva. It can be detected in your urine for at least 3 days after your exposure to nicotine and in your hair for weeks or more.

The best way to remove nicotine from your body is to avoid tobacco products altogether.


How Long Does Nicotine Stay in Your System? ›

People also process nicotine differently depending on their genetics. Generally, nicotine will leaves your blood within 1 to 3 days after you stop using tobacco, and cotinine

Cotinine is currently being studied as a treatment for depression, PTSD, schizophrenia, Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease. Cotinine was developed as an antidepressant as a fumaric acid salt, cotinine fumarate, to be sold under the brand name Scotine but it was never marketed. › wiki › Cotinine
will be gone after 1 to 10 days. Neither nicotine nor cotinine will be detectable in your urine after 3 to 4 days of stopping tobacco products.

How long does it take for nicotine to be 100% out of your system? ›

Nicotine itself may be present in the blood for only 48 hours, while cotinine may be detectable for up to three weeks. After blood is drawn in a lab, results can take from two to 10 days.

How long does one puff of a cigarette stay in your system? ›

Eight to 48 hours

The nicotine and carbon monoxide finally begin to leave your system — but, only if you haven't smoked since your first puff. The excess mucus created to coat and protect your lungs will begin to drain.

Can doctors tell if you smoke occasionally? ›

Yes, your doctor can tell if you smoke occasionally by looking at medical tests that can detect nicotine in your blood, saliva, urine and hair. When you smoke or get exposed to secondhand smoke, the nicotine you inhale gets absorbed into your blood.

What can I drink to detox nicotine? ›

Nicotine is water-soluble, so drinking water will help flush out any lingering traces. Water helps flush nicotine and other chemicals out of your body. Therefore, drinking water in sufficient quantities is a must for every smoker.

What can cause a false positive nicotine test? ›

If you use nicotine replacement medicine, such as gum or a patch, the cotinine test will not give an accurate result. Breathing in secondhand smoke can also affect the result. If you haven't smoked or been exposed to nicotine in 7 to 10 days, your cotinine levels start to return to a normal level.

How can I get cotinine out of my system fast? ›

Cotinine, a derivative of nicotine that is often tested for, stays in your system for a longer period of time. Habits such as eating a healthy diet and drinking more water can help rid the body of nicotine more quickly.

Can doctors tell if you smoke from a blood test? ›

Yes, a lab examination called a nicotine test may help a doctor determine the nicotine content in a person's body. A nicotine test measures the level of nicotine or the chemicals cigarettes produce in the body. It's usually done by testing a sample of the blood or urine.

Will nicotine show in your urine? ›

THC and Nicotine in a person's system are still detectable by standard urine, blood, or hair drug tests.

Do jobs drug test for nicotine? ›

In many US states, employers are legally allowed to implement no-hire policies for nicotine users by using nicotine testing for employment. There are several methods of testing for nicotine; however, the best way to detect tobacco use is through a cotinine test.

What are smokers lips? ›

What are smoker's lips? Smoker's lips are characterized by vertical wrinkles around the mouth. The lips and gums may also become significantly darker than their natural shade (hyperpigmentation). Smoker's lips can begin to occur after months or years of smoking cigarettes or other tobacco products.

Can dentist tell if you vape? ›

The answer is yes. While some people switch from smoking to vaping because they may think vaping is a safer alternative to smoking, studies show that it is just bad for your teeth and gums. Vaping has the same adverse effects on your oral health as smoking and your dentist WILL be able to tell.

How can you tell if someone is secretly smoking? ›

General Signs

The smell of cigarette smoke clings to fabrics and hair. You may also notice bad breath if someone is smoking cigarettes. You may see stains form on the teeth of a smoker in a short period of time.

How much water do you need to drink to flush out nicotine? ›

To remove nicotine from your system, try to drink plenty of fluids and eat foods that help your body metabolize it. Drink at least 15 cups of water a day if you're a man and 11 cups if you're a woman, which will help you urinate the nicotine out of your system quickly.

How can I clean my lungs after smoking? ›

How Can I Accelerate Lung Healing After Smoking?
  1. Drink Lots Of Water. Water helps flush toxins from your body, including those found in cigarettes and tobacco products. ...
  2. Eat Healthy Foods. ...
  3. Exercise Regularly. ...
  4. Cough. ...
  5. Clean Your Living Space. ...
  6. Practice Deep Breathing. ...
  7. Try Steam Therapy.
Sep 29, 2021

What is a positive cotinine level? ›

What is a high cotinine level? Any amount greater than 10 ng/mL indicates someone is an active smoker. Levels between 1–10 ng/mL indicate you are exposed to heavy amounts of secondhand smoke.

Is there cotinine in Vapes? ›

Cotinine levels after "vaping" an e-cigarette are similar to a tobacco cigarette. Conclusion: This review summarizes e-cigarette studies that contain information on nicotine or cotinine levels. The peak concentration of nicotine appears to be dependent on the use and dose level of e-cigarette cartridge.

Can I have nicotine before blood test? ›

But is that all? Smoking can affect your blood test results. So if you have been asked to fast before your blood test, you should avoid smoking as well.

What blood test shows nicotine use? ›

A blood or urine nicotine test may be ordered by itself or along with cotinine if a healthcare practitioner suspects that someone is experiencing a nicotine overdose.

How do hospitals test for nicotine? ›

A nicotine test measures the level of nicotine—or the chemicals it produces, such as cotinine—in your blood or urine. It's usually done by testing a sample of your blood or urine. The test is used to see if you smoke or use other forms of tobacco. All forms of tobacco have nicotine.

Does smoking make you skinny? ›

But smokers are, on average, skinnier than nonsmokers. New research reveals how nicotine, the active ingredient in cigarettes, works in the brain to suppress smokers' appetites. The finding also pinpoints a new drug target for nicotine withdrawal—and weight loss.

Will my skin look better if I quit smoking? ›

While wrinkles that have developed may not disappear entirely, you will see an improvement in bad skin after quitting smoking after a short amount of time. In fact, your skin will begin to improve after a matter of days as collagen and elastin renew themselves.

Will my teeth whiten after quitting smoking? ›

Will My Teeth Whiten After I Quit Smoking? If you're wondering, “Will my teeth stains go away after quitting smoking?”, the answer is yes. Even if you've smoked for a long time, quitting the habit can greatly improve your oral health.

How can you tell if someone is vaping? ›

These include:
  1. A sweet scent in the air. ...
  2. Unfamiliar pens and USB drives. ...
  3. Slowdown of caffeine use. ...
  4. Drinking more water. ...
  5. Nosebleeds. ...
  6. Smoker's cough or mouth sores. ...
  7. New batteries and chargers. ...
  8. Discarded vaping pods and devices.
Sep 30, 2021

Can vaping give you acne? ›

We do know that vaping can dry out your skin, and cause significant dehydration. The dryer your skin becomes, the more likely it is to produce oil and sebum (which can clog our pores and potentially lead to acne breakouts).

How do I stop vaping? ›

Quitting vaping? Here are 5 tips for handling nicotine withdrawal
  1. Exercise. Physical activity is a reliable way to crush a craving, according to Hays. ...
  2. Use a distraction. Cravings will pass, if you can give them a minute or two. ...
  3. Set up your environment for success. ...
  4. Find stress solutions. ...
  5. Celebrate your accomplishments.

What smoking does to your face? ›

Nicotine causes blood vessels to narrow, reducing oxygen flow and nutrients to skin cells. A number of chemicals trigger molecular events that remodel or damage structures necessary for skin elasticity and health. Repetitive squinting and lip pursing contribute to lines around the mouth and eyes.

How can I hide that I smoke? ›

For an on-the-go hiding spot, try tucking your cigarettes and lighters inside the small, hidden pockets in the lining of your jacket or coat. If you want to hide your smoking stuff in your room, consider stashing it in a hollowed-out book or toward the back of your closet.

What is a closet smoker? ›

A person who tries to keep his/her cigarette smoking habit a secret from friends and/or family, by using mouthwash, burning candles at home, smoking out of public view, etc.

Can I flush nicotine out of my system? ›

There is no sure way to flush the body of nicotine quickly, but people may try maintaining a healthy lifestyle so that their body works efficiently.

Can doctors tell if you smoke from a blood test? ›

Yes, a lab examination called a nicotine test may help a doctor determine the nicotine content in a person's body. A nicotine test measures the level of nicotine or the chemicals cigarettes produce in the body. It's usually done by testing a sample of the blood or urine.

Do jobs drug test for nicotine? ›

In many US states, employers are legally allowed to implement no-hire policies for nicotine users by using nicotine testing for employment. There are several methods of testing for nicotine; however, the best way to detect tobacco use is through a cotinine test.


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