How Long Does Nicotine Stay in Your System?

Detection Timetable Depends on Many Variables

Man Using E-Cigarette
Liquid Nicotine Can Be Dangerous. © Getty Images

Determining exactly how long nicotine is detectable in the body depends on many variables, including which kind drug test is being used. Nicotine - also known as cigars, cigarettes, smokeless tobacco, snuff, spit tobacco - can be detected for a shorter time with some tests, but can be "visible" for up to three months in other tests.

The timetable for detecting nicotine in the system is also dependent upon each individual's metabolism, body mass, age, hydration level, physical activity, health conditions and other factors, making it almost impossible to determine an exact time nicotine will show up on a drug test.

The following is an estimated range of times, or detection windows, during which nicotine can be detected by various testing methods:

How Long Does Nicotine Show Up in Urine?

Nicotine is detectable in a urine test for 2-4 days.

How Long Does Nicotine Stay in the Blood?

A blood test will detect nicotine for up to 2-4 days.

How Long Will Nicotine Show Up in a Saliva Test?

A saliva test will detect nicotine from 1-4 days.

How Long Does Nicotine Remain in Hair?

Nicotine, like many other drugs, can be detected with a hair follicle drug test for up to 90 days.

How Is Nicotine Absorbed

When nicotine is smoked as a cigarette or other tobacco product, it is mostly absorbed into the body through the lungs. Nicotine can be absorbed through the membranes in the mouth and throat, but because of its acidic nature it is ionized and does not easily pass through membranes.

However, in liquid form, found in products used with electronic cigarettes, enough nicotine can be absorbed through the skin to be dangerous, especially in small children.

How Is Nicotine Metabolized?

Nicotine is mainly metabolized in the liver but also in the lungs and kidneys. The main metabolites of nicotine are cotinine and nicotine-N-oxide. Both nicotine and its metabolites can be harmful to the body. Nicotine is a known carcinogen.

How Is Nicotine Excreted?

Nicotine is metabolized in the life and excreted mostly via urine through the kidneys. Some nicotine is excreted in feces. Contine and other metabolites can also be found in saliva and the hair.

Nicotine Poisoning

The increased use of e-cigarette devices, which use liquid nicotine products, has also increased the number of cases of nicotine poisoning. Prior to the use of e-cigarettes, most nicotine poisoning cases involved young children who would chew nicotine gum or patches.

However, with the advent of e-cigarettes, the number of nicotine poison cases have skyrocketed. In 2011, there were only 271 nicotine poisoning cases reported to the American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC), but by 2014 there were 3,783 cases.

Although most of these nicotine poisoning cases involve children who are exposed to liquid nicotine, adults cases too have been reported.

Tips For Handling E-Cigarettes

Consequently, the AAPCC recommends the following steps for users of e-cigarettes:

  • Protect your skin when handling the products.
  • Keep e-cigarettes and liquid nicotine out of the reach of children.
  • Follow the disposal instructions on the label.
  • If someone has been exposed call 1-800-222-1222 immediately.


Always Test Clean. "What Are Drug Detection Times?" Drug Test Facts 

American Association for Clinical Chemistry "Drugs of Abuse Testing." Lab Tests Online. Revised 2 January 2013.

American Association of Poison Control Centers. "E-Cigarette Devices and Liquid Nicotine." Alerts March 2015

LabCorp, Inc. "Drugs of Abuse Reference Guide." 

University of Bristol School of Chemistry. "The Metabolism of Nicotine." The Molecule of the Month 

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