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​How Long Does Nicotine Stay in Your System?

22nd Jun 2022

how long does nicotine stay in your system

The duration nicotine stays in your system depends on a variety of factors. Ranging from the function of your liver, age or level of cotinine remaining - (the most important metabolite found in nicotine), results differ among every individual. Nicotine in most cases can stay in the body's system between one to three days, with cotinine metabolising at a slower rate, lasting anywhere from one to ten days.

There may be different reasons why people want to know whether nicotine is in their system - it could be work-related, for health insurance purposes, something your doctor needs to know or purely curiosity.

Although nicotine is not a dangerous substance on its own, it’s an addictive compound which lingers longer, depending on the frequency and amount of nicotine you inhale.

Below we dive deeper into the subject - explaining how nicotine slowly leaves your body, where you can find traces of the substance for testing and much more.

Why Does Nicotine Last a Few Days in the Body?

Nicotine absorbs very quickly within seconds, entering the bloodstream to give that sensation familiar to smokers and vapers.

Although nicotine seamlessly enters the body, it leaves at a much slower rate, creating an impression on our body for days, weeks and even months in some cases. Hair is one of the clear long-term signs of nicotine use, as well as the testing of blood and urine samples.

Even those who do not smoke tobacco cigarettes containing nicotine, but exposed to secondhand smoke could have traces of nicotine in their body.

Nicotine is broken down into cotinine, thanks to the work of enzymes in the liver, which are easier for tests to pick up over a longer time (typically one to three weeks).

The substances then break down further via the kidneys and leave the body through urine, with the length of time before the system is completely clear, altering from person to person, depending on the amount of nicotine consumed.

Is Cotinine the True Indicator?

While many crave nicotine to keep up habits and daily routines, it’s only when that’s broken down into cotinine that we see the lasting effect of nicotine. Typically medical professionals testing for nicotine will check the cotinine markers and validate the ‘half-life’ of the Alkaloid.

The half-life refers to the number of hours before that substance leaves your system. For instance, nicotine leaves the blood plasma with a half-life of roughly seven hours and with cotinine closer to sixteen hours. Doctors will refer to these statistics for any individual to understand whether they’re a heavy smoker who has smoked or vaped recently, someone inhaling nicotine less frequently but more recently and those who have given up nicotine several weeks ago.

How to Remove Nicotine From Your System Faster

  1. Keep hydrated by drinking plenty of water to remove nicotine from your body much faster. You can also try drinks with no added sugar or artificial flavours to mix it up.
  2. Eat plenty of foods high in antioxidants, such as blueberries, spinach and nuts.
  3. Reduce the level of nicotine as much as possible, which is where vaping is useful, as you can drop the percentage at your own pace.
  4. Boost your metabolism by upping your liver's production of bile. You can do this eating foods such as egg yolks, garlic and asparagus.
  5. Get your sweat on by increasing exercise to release the nicotine toxins from your body.
Antioxidants - Blueberries

Why Does the Speed it Takes for Nicotine to Leave Differ?

As well as the amount of nicotine you vape contributes to how long nicotine stays in your system, there are a few different factors, which impact the speed it takes to remove itself from your body naturally. We are all different, and the points below highlight why nicotine takes longer to leave the body for some than others:

  • The level at which your liver operates oxidises cotinine. If your liver functions well, nicotine will break down at a quicker rate
  • Your age also matters as anyone over 65 years of age will need more time to remove nicotine from their system
  • As we stated earlier, individuals require a healthy balanced diet to reduce the nicotine in their bodies faster
  • Genetics also make a difference, with each person designed in a different way
  • If your kidney is not in good working order, this will reduce the speed you break down nicotine and cotinine
  • Men and women differ - with the latter clearing nicotine and cotinine at a faster pace, especially if using oral contraceptives
Young Man Vaping

Final Thoughts

To summarise, nicotine takes a few days to leave your system through urination, with the after-effects of cotinine taking a little longer to leave your body for good, with traces within your hair sometimes lasting months. As former smokers crave cigarettes, considering their high levels of addiction and unknown chemicals involved, vaping is seen as the smarter alternative to reduce nicotine levels if you want to limit the levels remaining in your body for a sustained period.

While not common, some UK employers have the right to take nicotine tests or at least ask their employers if they smoke before considering hiring an applicant. Little things like that make a difference, which is why vaping is useful for those who wish to carry on the habit of inhaling without nicotine.