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How Long Does Nicotine Stay in Your System (for life insurance purposes)?

If you are a smoker (or an ex-smoker), you might be wondering how long Nicotine stays in your system. Especially if you’re considering purchasing a life insurance policy because frequently, the amount of Nicotine found within one’s system can be used to determine what kind of “rate” an individual might qualify for. For this reason, we wanted to take a moment and discuss some of the most common questions we’ll get from folks who use tobacco or nicotine products when applying for a traditional term or whole life insurance policy.

Questions that will be addressed will include:

  • How long does Nicotine commonly “stay” within someone’s system?
  • Aside from just testing, how are life insurance companies able to determine if someone is a tobacco or nicotine user?
  • What happens if someone lies on their life insurance application?

So, without further ado, let’s dive right in!

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How long does Nicotine commonly “stay” within someone’s system?

The short answer: Nicotine usually stays in your system (i.e., your blood) for 1-3 days. However, insurance companies won’t be looking for “Nicotine” in your system when testing you. Instead, they will look for a natural “byproduct” produced by one’s body as it metabolizes Nicotine. A byproduct called cotinine which will be detected using a cotinine test.

What is a cotinine test? 

A cotinine test determines how much cotinine is in your body. The most common is a cotinine urine test, which can detect nicotine use for up to 4 days. Other types of cotinine tests can include saliva tests, which will detect cotinine for up to 4 days, blood tests for up to 10 days, and hair follicle tests for up to 3 months (in most cases).

We should note however that various factors can come into play, which could either shorten or increase the time that cotinine can be detected in one’s system, so one should always keep this in mind.

For example, certain medications can impact how quickly one’s body can metabolize Nicotin.  One common medication includes many Antibiotics, which can help your body process nicotine faster. That doesn’t mean that you should go out and get an antibiotic prescription just to clean your body of Nicotine. It just means that there are a variety of different factors that can determine how long Nicotine can last in one’s body.


Certain antifungals and some high-blood pressure medications can slow down the metabolism of Nicotine. These are just things to be aware of so you can gauge how fast Nicotine will pass through your body and whether or not your nicotine test will come up positive or negative after a certain duration. We should also point out that it’s safe to assume that the amount of tobacco or Nicotine that you consume will also play a factor in determining how long you may have residual levels of cotinine within your system.

Which is why…

It’s pretty safe to assume that if you’ve only smoked one cigarette in your life, it’s probably going to pass through your system in a substantially shorter amount of time than if you smoked a pack a day for the past 15 years! So much so that some folks may have so much Nicotine built up within their body that it may still be detectible at some level for up to six months from now!!!

Which brings us to...

An important point that any tobacco or nicotine user must understand is that detectable levels within the blood or urine sample aren’t the only way a life insurance company is going to figure out if you are a current tobacco user. This is why even if you decide to apply for a No Medical Exam Life Insurance Policy and state that you don’t use any kind of tobacco or nicotine products, there are several “other” ways an insurance company could find out that you do!

Aside from just testing, most life insurance companies are going to have a variety of other methods that they can use to determine who is and isn’t a tobacco user.

Other methods such as:

  • An insurance company may request copies of your medical records in which your doctor documents that you are a tobacco user.
  • You may have been prescribed some medication designed to help you quit smoking, which will provide a record to an insurance company that at one time you did use tobacco or Nicotine.


You may have applied for a life insurance policy in the past, at which point you either declared you were a tobacco user or, during that application, you may have tested positive for cotinine, which your new life insurance company will have access to. This is why honesty is always the best policy!

What happens if someone lies on their life insurance application?

Because being labeled a “tobacco user” will typically cause one to have to pay more for their insurance, some folks may be tempted to lie (Top 10 Lies Told on a Life Insurance Application) during their life insurance application, which is something that we DON’T RECOMMEND that you try and do.

Mainly because…

A life insurance policy is considered a legal contract between two parties that assumes that both parties are of “sound mind” and that both parties are being honest. This means that if it is discovered that you are being dishonest on your application, it could potentially VOID the entire contract, leaving your loved one uninsured.

The reason for this this is because tobacco use by itself will usually only result in an individual having to pay more for their insurance. However, if someone also has been diagnosed with some pre-existing medical condition that may still be insurable provided that the applicant doesn’t use any tobacco or nicotine product, lying about one’s usage could be considered material misrepresentation and provide an insurance company with a valid reason to VOID your policy later on!

For example…

Individuals who have been diagnosed with AsthmaCOPD, Diabetes, or Emphysema may all be able to qualify for a traditional term or whole life insurance policy. However, when one of these conditions is combined with active tobacco or nicotine use, it’s pretty safe to say that most life insurance companies will be unwilling to provide coverage.

Which means that if you LIED about your usage, you, in essence, entered into a binding contract with them in “bad faith”!

But this is…

Just one reason why it’s a bad idea to lie during a life insurance application. The other reason it’s a bad idea is that sometimes folks will “lie” about their usage only to learn that had they not lied, they would have been able to qualify for a better rate!

This is because not all forms of “tobacco” will be considered the same. However, once an individual decides not to claim that they don’t use any tobacco or Nicotine and are caught, most insurance companies will be unwilling to provide a “non-tobacco” rate to these individuals even if they would have otherwise qualified!

This is why…

Honesty is always the best policy.

And why, if you are looking to purchase a life insurance policy and you’re worried about having to pay too much for your insurance, the best thing that you can do is make sure that you’re working with a true professional who is familiar with the underwriting guidelines of a wide variety of different life insurance companies.

This way, not only will he or she be able to guide you to the “right” life insurance company, but he or she should also be able to advise you on how you may qualify for a “non-tobacco” rate when possible. So give us a call today, who knows you may be surprised to learn just how affordable your coverage could be!

4 comments… add one
  • jay g March 25, 2023, 3:42 pm

    i do not smoke cigarettes, but i do use a mild vape…….does that show up the same , more or less?

    • IBUSA March 26, 2023, 5:07 pm


      In most cases life insurance companies consider vaping as tobacco use. This is because the nicotine used in vaping products is derived from tobacco and has similar health risks as traditional cigarette smoking. As a result, many life insurance companies consider vaping to be equivalent to smoking when assessing an applicant’s risk and determining their premiums.

      However, we should point out that some life insurance companies may have different underwriting guidelines for vaping than for smoking, so it’s important to check with each individual insurer to determine their specific policy on this matter. Additionally, some companies may offer more favorable rates to individuals who use vaping products compared to traditional smokers, but this will depend on the insurer’s underwriting practices and other factors such as the frequency and duration of vaping use.



  • Michael O. April 2, 2024, 2:09 pm

    Hear me out, I smoked daily for about 15 years, then quit. Roughly 1-2 years after I quit smoking, I developed Multiple Sclerosis. That could be a coincidence, but nicotine has anti-inflammatory properties. I could site studies which support that but I’ll just say that you can look them up on PubMed and the National Library of Medicine if you are interested.
    So my real question is, if I can be prescribed nicotine from a doctor in the form of a transdermal patch, gum, nasal spray, or even a nicotine pouch. Would that have an effect on my rates?

    • IBUSA April 5, 2024, 4:17 pm


      Most (if not all) life insurance companies will consider you a tobacco user you have been prescribed a nicotine pouch within the past 12 months. Such a prescription will likely increase the cost of your term or whole life insurance by two or three times what a non-tobacco user would pay.



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