How Long Does Nicotine Stay in Your System

Most of us vapers don’t think much about what happens to the body after we take in a pull-off of our device. The nicotine hits us, we feel satisfied, and we put our device down until we start desiring some more. But, after that vapor has made its way in and out of the lungs, nicotine remains in the system for a little while – in fact, longer than most would expect.

Now, this doesn’t matter to the average person, but some people do get tested for nicotine, in which case there may be more of an urgency to know where they stand. 

What is Nicotine?

Nicotine is the addictive compound in tobacco that provides feelings of satisfaction to the user. Nicotine by itself is not known to cause harm to the body – it’s the other various chemical compounds in cigarette tobacco that are associated with dangerous health effects. E-liquids contain nicotine, but it’s a purified nicotine isolated from the tobacco plant’s remaining chemical composition.

What Happens When You Consume Nicotine?

When the body consumes nicotine through inhalation, as when they vape, the nicotine enters the bloodstream almost immediately before entering the brain to affect the nervous system. Inhalation is a very effective delivery method in general since the tissue of the lungs allows compounds that are inhaled to enter the more quickly than, say, compounds that are ingested.

Once nicotine does enter the bloodstream, the nervous system is affected, and physiological changes occur that make a person feel satisfied. Many people say that nicotine helps them feel more relaxed, more focused, and more uplifted. 

Now, the acute effects of nicotine are only present for about 30 minutes. A person can generally go up to 4 hours before a craving for more nicotine begins to get severe, however. 

Keep in mind, also, that the type of nicotine you’re vaping can matter. Salt-based nicotine, found in pod systems and disposable vapes, generally affects people much more quickly and potently than freebase nicotine, associated with sub-ohm systems. Salt-based nicotine likely wears off a little more quickly as well.

The Metabolization of Nicotine in Your System

So, let’s say you use nicotine products. How does nicotine metabolize? Once the nicotine is wearing off, it enters the liver, where metabolites begin the process of breaking it down so that it can start clearing out of the system. It’s excreted in the urine, by the kidneys, with the pH of an individual’s urine determining what percentage ends up getting reabsorbed.

What is the duration of nicotine's presence in your system?

Now that you know the basic process of consuming and metabolizing nicotine, let’s discuss what this could mean if you’re being tested. Nicotine can be detected through three different means: in a person’s blood, in a person’s saliva, or a person’s urine. 


If you’ve never had to take a nicotine test, you may wonder what the context would be. After all, we’ve heard of employers testing for drugs, but why nicotine? Some employers do test potential candidates or existing employees for nicotine, and this is because some employers don’t want to hire people who will frequently require nicotine to stay productive throughout the day. Other employers may do this screening process for health purposes.

Either way, how long nicotine can be detected depends on how it’s tested – specifically if the employer looks at a person’s blood, urine, or saliva.

One quick thing to point out is that nicotine metabolizes into a new metabolite called cotinine. This can appear in blood or a urine test and lasts for longer than nicotine in the system, which is why tests are usually looking for this byproduct rather than nicotine itself.

Nicotine Detection: Blood vs. Urine vs. Saliva

Saliva: If a saliva test is being performed, nicotine is being tested for since it hasn’t yet turned into cotinine. Nicotine can stay in the saliva for up to 24 hours after it was last inhaled, and saliva tests can pick up smaller nicotine concentrations than blood or urine tests.

Blood: Nicotine can remain in the blood for about 1-3 days after it was last used. Cotinine, however, can last up to 10 days, which may be surprising. Keep in mind that of the 3 tests, blood tests are very rare in an employment context since they are invasive. A doctor is likelier to do a blood test for nicotine than an employer.

Urine: So, how long is nicotine in your urine? Urine tests are the most common, and cotinine will linger in the urine longer than any other bodily fluid that can be tested. Cotinine can be detected for up to about 2 weeks after nicotine was last used.

How to Pass a Nicotine Test if You Vape

It’s clear that how long you have until you no longer risk testing positive depends on the type of test being used. And in most cases, it will be a urine test, as this is by far the most common. But is there a way to clear nicotine/cotinine out of the system faster if you vape? If you’re wondering how to get nicotine out of your system in 12 hours, you’ll want to pay attention.

In general, the key is drinking lots of water and exercising. This way, you’re helping speed up the excreting of cotinine through the urinary process while also sweating out as much as possible as an alternative means of excretion. These are the only recommendations that exist and keep in mind that they’re not guaranteed to work. The only true way to clear nicotine from your system is to quit for 2 weeks before your upcoming urine test. If you’re wondering, “If you haven’t smoked in 2 weeks, am I clean?” the answer is probably yes.

Final Nicotine-Lasting Thoughts 

If you’ve ever worried about an upcoming urine test, now you know exactly what to expect should you be given one again. Basically, nicotine doesn’t last for as long as other compounds tested for by employers, but still, it does linger, especially in the urine, for quite some time. So, make an effort to play it safe, especially once again, if testing positive could threaten your employment.

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