Smoke-free workplaces have become standard in many cities, but some employers take their anti-tobacco policies a step further by prohibiting employees from smoking even while they are not at work. While such policies are incredibly controversial, U.S. courts have upheld them as lawful. How do bosses monitor employees' behavior when they are off the clock? They use a test that looks for nicotine, of course. Unfortunately, e-cigarette users are not exempt from this discriminatory practice, which is why it's important for vapers to understand how the human body metabolizes nicotine.Understanding How Nicotine Stays in the Body
Technically, nicotine breaks down into a metabolite called cotinine within 2-11 hours after consumption; however, cotinine remains detectable in the user's hair, blood, saliva and urine for up to 30 days. Therefore, some employers use cotinine tests to determine if prospective employees use tobacco.
Of course, there is a problem: Not all nicotine products are tobacco products. Most notably, smoking-cessation tools such as nicotine patches and some e-liquids contain pure nicotine. When extracted directly from the tobacco plant, small doses of nicotine are harmless and may even have therapeutic value; it's the many other chemicals in tobacco that cause cancers and other health maladies linked to smoking. Nicotine can also be synthetically produced. Nonetheless, e-cigs and other nicotine-containing products get stigmatized due to their association with smoking.
If you're a vaper who is applying for jobs in the public health sector, you could be subject to nicotine testing and consequently denied employment. That's why it's a good idea to take a vaping break for a few days if you're worried about being tested. So how long is nicotine in your system? Blood tests can detect cotinine up to 10 days after your most recent nicotine use. Although blood tests are the most accurate method, there are less invasive ways to test for nicotine use, so most employers do not request blood samples.How Long is Nicotine in Your Urine?
Urine and saliva tests are more commonly used to screen employees for nicotine consumption. Both tests usually only detect cotinine within 3-4 days. However, anyone who inhales a lot of secondhand smoke, including non-smokers, can sometimes have cotinine lingering in their systems for longer periods of time. Therefore, it's theoretically possible to get a false positive from a urine test. Hair tests are the most damning; they can detect nicotine and cotinine up to a year after the last use. Fortunately, hair tests are expensive and are rarely used by employers.When Does Nicotine Leave Your System?
How quickly nicotine and cotinine get metabolized depends on the user's genetics, age, diet and other health factors. It also depends on how much and how frequently a person uses nicotine. Fruits and vegetables containing large amounts of vitamin C can accelerate your metabolism and therefore speed up the elimination process. Exercise, proper hydration and eating foods rich in antioxidants are also ideal for flushing out nicotine. If you're trying to kick your tobacco habit, keeping a healthy diet will also help you fight off urges to smoke.
Related: Overcoming the Smoker's Flu
Keep in mind that e-cigs are less effective at delivering nicotine than tobacco cigarettes. Since vapers generally take in less nicotine than smokers, it's safe to assume that e-cig users will be less susceptible to tipping off a nicotine or cotinine test. Nonetheless, you should lay off of vaping for a few days if you're worried about an employer asking for your urine or saliva.
For decades, everyone assumed that nicotine was what made smoking such a hard habit to break. The whole concept of nicotine-replacement therapy is founded upon this assumption. The CDC still claims that “nicotine is as addictive as heroin, cocaine, or alcohol,” yet new research suggests that nicotine may not be the primary culprit behind tobacco dependency. As it turns out, nicotine withdrawal and smoking withdrawal may not be the same thing after all.The Truth About Nicotine Addiction
Since most people associate nicotine with tobacco, it's no surprise that the substance gets a bad wrap. The fact that smoking causes millions of deaths annually is indisputable; however, why cigarettes are addictive is a subject of ongoing debate. Tobacco cigarettes contain dozens of chemicals other than nicotine that could have addictive properties. Another theory is that those additives amplify the mildly addictive properties of nicotine.
The delivery method of nicotine greatly impacts how the chemical is absorbed into the body. Studies have proven that smokers take in much more nicotine than vapers, which some public health officials say explains why tobacco cigarettes are demonstrably more addictive than e-cigarettes. Nonetheless, research in another field has thrown into question whether or not nicotine is addictive at all.How Addictive is Nicotine?
Interestingly, human experiments measuring the therapeutic uses of nicotine have not supported the hypothesis that nicotine is highly addictive. While investigating how small amounts of pure nicotine may improve certain neurological disorders, doctors have yet to document any withdrawal symptoms in test subjects. They did, however, discover that controlled doses of nicotine help Alzheimer's and Parkinson's patients. As part of the study, nicotine was administered through skin contact via nicotine patches.
A less scientific yet more publicized study that threw nicotine's addictive properties into question was undertaken by journalist Michael Mosley. Mosley, who is not a smoker, started regularly vaping for a month to find out for himself whether or not e-cigs alone can be addictive. He reported no urges to vape during his experiment, and he didn't notice any withdrawal symptoms once it was over. Animal research has further supported the theory that other ingredients in cigarettes, not nicotine, are responsible for withdrawal after tobacco cessation.What are the Symptoms of Nicotine Withdrawal
Nicotine withdrawal and tobacco withdrawal were once considered synonymous, but that is no longer true. The harsh side effects smokers suffer when quitting smoking have less to do with nicotine and more to do with tar and dozens of other bad things in cigarettes. By itself, the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal are similar to caffeine withdrawal.
Many former smokers can tell you all about “smoker's flu” which isn't a virus but rather the collective symptoms associated with cigarette detox. These symptoms include:Irritability Trouble concentrating Gastrointestinal issues Trouble sleeping Fatigue Headache Congestion Cough and sore throat Acne
This all sounds unpleasant, but it's the process your body must go through to heal. Within four days, ex-smokers usually feel much better than they did when they were smoking.
Nicotine may very well be habit-forming like caffeine, but the jury is still out. Either way, comparing nicotine to heroin isn't just absurd; it's irresponsible. The CDC owes the public more honest information, and they should join Public Health England in supporting e-cigs as a safer alternative to tobacco.