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How Long Does Nicotine Stay in Your Bloodstream?

Written by Jason Patterson

There are two things you need to remember when taking a nicotine test for your life insurance medical exam.

First, Be Honest.

And Second, don’t wait until right before your test if you don’t want to be identified as a smoker by your insurance company.

A good rule of thumb (which we’ll explore in further detail later) is to stop using any tobacco products at least a month before your test. At we want to provide full resources to help you navigate obtaining affordable insurance.

Let’s back up for a second.

Why Do Life insurance Companies Test If you are a smoker?

The reason that an Insurance company wants to test to see if you’re a smoker during your medical exam, is because one of the most important factors that insurance companies look at is your health.

They check your health to determine how high of a risk it is to insure you. Smoking has been proven to be an extremely unhealthy habit, and can often lead to a myriad of health effects later in life.

Therefore, people that smoke are a larger risk to insurance companies than non-smokers. Insurance companies mitigate this risk by charging smokers a higher premium on their life insurance policies.

This means that there isn’t a better time to quit smoking (for good) before you get your life insurance. If you’re going to quit anyway, do it at least a month before your medical exam for life insurance. Not being rated as a smoker by insurance companies will save you a boat load of money!

The table below shows the average rates for smokers versus non-smokers over a 10, 20 and 30 year term policy for $1,000,000 of coverage for a 23 year old male who smokes 10 cigarettes per day.

Term Smoker Rates Non-Smoker Rates
10 Year $50.00/mo. $20.00/mo.
20 Year $65.00/mo. $33.00/mo.
30 Year $96.00/mo. $51.00/mo.

Can’t I Just Lie and Say I Don’t Smoke To Save Money?

I strongly advise against lying on your life insurance application, and even if that worked, your insurance company would find out the truth.

Be Honest

On your application, one of the first questions that you will need to answer is if you use tobacco products, and if so, when was the last time you used some. You also never want to give the insurance company the chance to void or cancel your policy just to save some money on your premiums. If you pass away, and your insurance company finds out you lied on your application, they can declare fraud on the policy and refuse to pay your death benefit. The risks far outweigh the reward.

Types Of Nicotine Tests For Life Insurance

“So I won’t lie on my application. Can I at least stretch the truth a little and say that I stopped smoking 6 months ago? I really have been trying to quit for the last 10 days.”

Again, not something that I recommend. It more than likely wouldn’t work anyways. Reason being, life insurance companies make you take a medical exam to determine what health rating should be applied to your policy. During this medical exam, one of the main things that underwriters will be looking for, is any nicotine, or more specifically cotinine, in your system.

Cotinine is used as a biomarker for exposure to tobacco smoke, which refers to a substance whose detection indicates the presence of another substance. So whenever cotinine is found in your blood, saliva, etc., it means that Nicotine was involved.

So how exactly do life insurance companies test this?

There are 4 tests that could be used:

  1. Urine test
  2. Saliva test
  3. Hair Test
  4. Blood test

Urine Test

Most of the time, if you take a paramedical exam for a life insurance company, they are going to use a urine test to detect nicotine or cotinine in your bloodstream.

This is good news for recent quitters, as urine tests do a much poorer job of detecting these substances in your bloodstream past a week or two.

The main reason that this is the test of choice, is price. It is the cheapest option for insurance companies to give you.

Saliva Test

The Saliva Test is a bit more reliable than the Urine Test, and a little better at detecting nicotine further back than a week. Saliva tests can often be accurate enough to detect nicotine and cotinine in your bloodstream up to a month.

These are less common tests than Urine Tests but still used plenty because they are also relatively cheap for insurance companies to administer.

Hair Test

Hair Testing is almost never used because it takes a long time, and costs a lot more than these other two options.

BUT, testing hair for traces of cotinine is a MUCH more reliable measurement tool and the worst thing you can see if you have smoked in the past month. You won’t beat this test, but also most likely won’t be taking it.

Blood Test

Blood testing is a very accurate test. Blood testing is a very EXPENSIVE test.

Blood tests are unique because not only can you test positive or negative for cotinine and nicotine, but blood tests can also measure the amount of the substance in your blood.

So, How long does nicotine stay in your blood?

This is a loaded question that takes many factors into account:

  • The amount you smoke
  • How recently you used tobacco
  • Your overall health (which can affect how long nicotine and cotinine stay in your system)

There have been cases of daily smokers passing a urine test 4 days after a cigarette, and other cases of a failed test after 2 months of no tobacco or nicotine products.  It will depend on the factors above and what test you have to take on your medical exam.

For exact numbers, you’ll want to give it at least 14 days to be confident in your chances of nicotine not showing up on your test results.

This doesn’t only pertain to cigarettes. These tests, for the most part, cannot distinguish between your positive amounts of nicotine coming from a cigarette, chewing tobacco, cigars, vapes.

So yes you don’t “technically smoke” but the test is more geared towards seeing if you use tobacco products, not whether you smoke or not.

Do you know what else contains nicotine? Anything that helps wean you off of these tobacco products. These are called smoking cessation products, the most famous one being “The Patch”. So even if you quit smoking 6 months ago with the help of The Patch, if you still use it daily, it will show up on your medical test.

Obviously, the amount of nicotine is much smaller and therefore won’t stay in your system as long, but it’s still important to keep this in mind leading up to your exam. It is definitely possible to show up positive on a nicotine test from The Patch.

I Don’t Smoke, Can I Fail From Second Hand Smoke?

This is a concern that is in the heads of many. It is a legitimate cause for concern when it comes to inhaling second hand smoke, and that being harmful to your health. Yet, for this test specifically, it isn’t something that you need to be worried about.

The reason for this is because while smoke is exhaled from smokers, very little nicotine is. We don’t have the technology readily available to test for second hand smoke, when it comes to applying for life insurance.

How Can I Remove Nicotine From My Body?

The best way to remove the worry that you will be labeled as a smoker, or a higher risk applicant that needs to pay higher premiums, is to just quit all tobacco.

If you already quit, but it was too recent and your medical exam is soon, there are a few things that might make a small difference. suggests that drinking a lot of water can help flush nicotine out of your system.

Exercise is also a great tool to be used for getting more nicotine out of your system through your sweat.

Foods and Vitamins

Water and exercise is a good start to reducing the amount of nicotine in your bloodstream.

There are also a myriad of foods that can help speed up this process.  More specifically, fruits and vegetables.

Vitamin C

A high dose of vitamin C is a great way to rid your body of nicotine.

Some foods with high Vitamin C to help clear your system of Cotinine:

  • Kiwi
  • Broccoli
  • Kale
  • Oranges

We definitely don’t want to rely on fruits and vegetables to get rid of all the nicotine in our system, but if we do everything on our part, it might just help give that extra boost across the finish line to rid the rest of the body fully of nicotine traces.

The goal is to avoid being labeled as a smoker/tobacco user in the eyes of your life insurance company. You will save tons of money (more on exact figures in the chart above and in our quoting engine) on your premiums.

There are many companies that deal with smokers all the time, and often give much higher rates than their competitors. It is important to find which company best fits your needs, and gives you the best price around.

Compare the best life insurance rates for smokers here

Affordable rates, insanely fast quotes


About Jason Patterson
About Jason Patterson

Jason Patterson has been in the insurance industry for over fifteen years. Starting in 2005, he became one of the first agents to sell medicare supplements online. From that small start, he grew an agency that helped thousands of people with their insurance needs in all fifty states.

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