What is a Nicotine Saliva Test?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 19 July 2018
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A nicotine saliva test is a lab test used to check for nicotine or byproducts of nicotine in a person's saliva. There are a number of uses for such tests, ranging from epidemiological studies to drug testing. A number of companies make tests sold over the counter for home use, allowing people to monitor nicotine exposure at home. It is also possible to have a sample of saliva taken and analyzed in a lab for a more sensitive test.

Many of these tests actually test for cotinine, a compound produced as a byproduct of nicotine metabolism. Others test for nicotine or for both chemicals. These compounds can take approximately a week to be fully expressed from the body, and it is important to be aware of this when taking a test. Sources of exposure can include tobacco smoke and nicotine replacement products.

One reason to request a nicotine saliva test is to verify that a patient is not smoking. Surgeons often recommend that patients stop smoking for several weeks before surgery to allow chemicals associated with tobacco to be expressed from the body. Some of these chemicals can interfere with post surgical healing, and the test can be used to verify patient compliance. Patients who are using nicotine replacement products should make sure their surgeons are aware of this because the test will have a positive result.


People trying to quit cigarettes can use the tests to track their progress. Another use for them is determining how much nicotine someone is absorbing. Everyone smokes differently and various tobacco products can have different levels of nicotine and other compounds. By conducting empirical testing, researchers can compare it with self-reporting results, and they can also study the effects of secondhand smoke on people who do not smoke.

A basic nicotine saliva test is rapid and painless. A swab is used to collect a saliva sample from the mouth and is used with a test cartridge for a rapid result at home or in office result. Other tests use a test strip designed to react to cotinine. If more precise results are needed, the swab can be put in a specimen container and sent to a lab. Blood and urine tests to examine nicotine levels are also available, and these tests can offer more precision. It is important for individuals to use the same test each time with someone receiving multiple tests, as results can vary and results between test types or brands cannot be reliably compared.


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Post 3

Nicotine saliva tests are not as dependable as urine tests are, which is a shame because many health and life insurance companies use the test to determine qualification and rates for health insurance.

My job's health insurance required me to get a nicotine and drug test and used the saliva test for it. Even though I do not smoke and I am never around a smoker, I tested positively for nicotine and my insurance rates went up. I then appealed the results saying that I'm a non-smoker and requested a urine test. The urine test gave a negative result for nicotine.

I'm a vegetarian and it turns out that some of the foods vegetarians eat often can trick

the saliva test into thinking that it's nicotine. I read about this during my appeal and stopped eating cabbage, garlic, almonds and broccoli which I used to consume a lot of. So there are some factors that can cause a false result with the saliva test and I prefer to get a urine test for that reason.
Post 2

@turkay1-- I read in the news that tobacco saliva tests are good for determining how addicted a person is to nicotine. The test determines how fast a person metabolizes nicotine which affects the time and effort required to quit tobacco.

I guess if a person metabolizes it very quickly, it means they are very addicted and will have a hard time quitting. If a person metabolizes it slowly, it means they are light addicts and comparably will have an easier time quitting.

I do think your husband would benefit from this test because he could determine his addiction level. But I think it might not motivate him entirely because I've heard different accounts about how long nicotine stays in the body. Some people say it takes up to four weeks. So it might disappoint him to see high nicotine levels even though he has stopped smoking entirely.

Post 1

Wow, this is great! I hope my local pharmacy carries it because I would love to get this for my husband.

He's been trying to give up smoking for several years but keeps going back to it. He's went through several patch treatments but can't seem to quit entirely. I think he has a psychological addiction to smoking as well as a nicotine addiction. Last year, on New Years, I though he had finally quit when I caught him smoking in the garage.

He really wants to quit too and I want to help him. I think these saliva tests for nicotine might actually help and motivate him. Maybe as he sees the nicotine levels in his body going down, he will realize that he is actually overcoming his addiction. Of course, it would be a great way to make sure he's following the rules too!

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