While vaping is considered a safer and less impactful habit, certain components of vape stay in your body long enough to show up on lab tests. If your employer or health insurance tests for nicotine, there’s a good chance vaping will show up on the test.
Nicotine from a vape can stay in the body for about 3 or 4 days, but cotinine (a metabolite of nicotine) can last up to 3 weeks after exposure. Vape can still be detected in your hair follicles up to a year after your last exposure.
How long vape actually stays in your body depends on a few factors, and different tests will offer different results. Keep reading to learn how vape levels are tested in your body, how different tests measure these levels, and how you can speed up the process.
How Vape Levels are Tested in Your Body
While there isn’t much FDA research pertaining to how much nicotine you consume when inhaling from vape devices or e-cigarettes, there is plenty of research surrounding how nicotine stays in the body and shows up on tests.
Vape juice also offers different concentrations of nicotine. This means you may consume less nicotine than you would with cigarettes, while more concentrated juices and heavier users end up consuming more.
The testing for nicotine is the same whether you vape or smoke cigarettes, and your body metabolizes the compound the same way. Labs may perform qualitative or quantitative tests (depending on how much they want to know).
Most tests focus on cotinine rather than the amount of nicotine that shows up. This metabolite shows up after the enzymes in your liver break down nicotine. Cotinine is not only more stable, but it lasts longer in the body and it won’t trip a false positive in the test. Its presence may also be measured to determine how much nicotine you consumed.
Note: If your test is only to look for smoking tobacco (and vaping is not an issue), ask for one that also checks for anabasine. This compound is not found in vaping juices, and it will verify whether you’re smoking or vaping.
Qualitative vs Quantitative Testing
Qualitative and quantitative tests are used to detect cotinine and nicotine in your body, but they look for and measure these levels differently.
Qualitative tests only check a body regarding whether you have nicotine in your body or not. They are simple pass/fail, and are often used for a much shorter timeline.
Quantitative tests measure how much nicotine or cotinine you have in your body from vape. These tests are much more comprehensive, and they explain how often you vape, how long ago you were last exposed, and other factors that put a timeline on your habit.
Tests measure nicotine and cotinine in nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL).
Nicotine Free Vaping
If nicotine is an issue, you can find nicotine-free e-liquids that allow you to wean off the habit slowly. These are great for those who enjoy vaping and don’t want to quit, but who want to kick the nicotine addiction or have employers or insurance companies test for its presence.
There are other benefits to choosing nicotine-free juices. Because they do not contain nicotine, they are not subjected to size restrictions of other e-juices. You can buy them in larger sizes, spending less per mL and producing less waste.
How Long Does Nicotine Stay In Your Body?
How Long Does Vape Stay in Urine?
Nicotine can last up to 4 days in urine, but testing can still detect a small amount of cotinine up to 3 weeks after your last exposure. Cotinine levels in a regular vaper may measure 30 to 50 ng/mL, while those who have secondhand exposure may still pick up less than 1 ng/mL.
A urine test simply requires you to soak a test strip in the sample for 2 minutes, and results are available about two minutes after that.
Urine testing is fairly common because it’s not as invasive as blood testing, accurate, and economical. Urine may also contain six times more cotinine than a blood or saliva test, making it a powerhouse for detecting tobacco products.
Even those who only vape on occasion or those who are exposed to secondhand vape or smoke may have measurable quantities of cotinine in their test.
How Long Does Vape Stay in Blood?
Blood testing is the most common method used to detect cotinine in your system. While it only detects nicotine up to 3 days after use and cotinine up to 10 days after use, blood testing is more accurate than other methods.
Blood testing is also more invasive and more expensive. You must go to a lab to have blood drawn, and then the technicians either test for presence or quality to determine the results of your test.
Some blood results come back with a false positive for nicotine if they detect a compound called thiocyanate. This is found in foods such as garlic, cabbage, almonds, and broccoli, as well as some medicine.
How Long Does Vape Stay in Saliva?
Nicotine and cotinine are detectable up to 4 days after your last vape exposure. Saliva is one of the most preferred methods for testing because it can detect smaller levels of nicotine, costs the least, and is the least invasive.
Most saliva tests must be sent off to a lab, so they won’t offer immediate results like a urinalysis would.
Hair Follicle Tests for Vape
Hair follicles tests for nicotine or cotinine take longer to process, but they go back much farther in your vaping history. These chemicals may stay in your hair follicles anywhere from 3 months to a year after you last vaped.
Hair follicles tests cost more than any tests we’ve mentioned before. These tests are most valuable for assessing long-term exposure for a heavy smoker or someone exposed to nicotine second hand.
Factors that Affect How Long Vape Stays in Your Body
The timelines listed above are rough estimates and ranges that most fall into. In reality, the amount of time vape stays in your body depends:
- How often you vape
- What vape juice you use
- Medication you may take
- What you eat
- Your genetic makeup
- Your age and overall health
These factors affect how quickly our bodies may metabolize the compounds in vape juice. In general, smaller quantities in a healthier body will not last as long as heavy nicotine consumption in an unhealthy body.
How Often You Vape and What You Vape
If you only vape once or twice a week and you use lower nicotine concentrations, your body will be able to process the compounds in your vape juice more quickly.
Those who vape daily and those who indulge in heavier concentrations (especially those with compounds containing more nicotine than cigarettes) may have detectable numbers longer than what we’ve listed above.
Medication and Diet
What you consume may speed up or slow down your metabolism, directly affecting how quickly you process nicotine and other compounds in vape juice.
Antibiotics, such as Phenobarbital (Luminal), speed up metabolic processes and may rid your body of nicotine faster. Drinking lots of water helps flush waste from your kidneys and liver, and eating increases blood flow to the liver and causes more nicotine to metabolize.
Eating antioxidant-rich foods will also help your body process what it sees as waste, but a poor diet may slow down these processes.
Furthermore, medicines like antifungals and hypertension medication can slow down your metabolism, causing nicotine to stay in your system longer.
Genes and Age
Your genetic makeup influences how quickly your metabolism works, and there is evidence that race also plays a role. This study notes that non-hispanic African Americans may metabolize cotinine slower than non-hispanic white people.
Regardless of how your metabolism worked while you were younger, it will slow down as you age. Even those in perfect health experience a slower metabolism, and as less blood flows through the liver, it will take longer to clear.
Can You Accelerate Nicotine Metabolism in Your Body?
If you’re trying to pass lab testing for nicotine, you should stop vaping as soon as possible (at least 10 days before your test).
Apart from cutting it out completely, you want to do things that boost your metabolism. Drinking plenty of water will help flush waste from your kidney and liver, increasing the amount of nicotine that may be processed in a certain period.
Increasing exercise is another way to increase your heart rate and move more waste through your body. While you shouldn’t go directly from sedentary life to intense gym sessions, even a slight increase will boost blood circulation and remove waste through your sweat.
A cleaner diet full of fresh foods is easier for your body to process, especially when paired with drinking more water and moving around. Add in a multivitamin and look for foods rich in antioxidants, such as berries, dark chocolate, and pecans.
Our best idea on how long vape stays in your body relies on what we know about nicotine. Nicotine usually takes 4 days to clear your body, but its metabolite cotinine can still be detected up to 3 weeks after exposure.
While there are things you can do to accelerate the processing of nicotine in your body, your health, age, and genetic makeup set the baseline for your metabolism. The only way to guarantee nicotine clears your system is to abstain from consumption.
Have more questions about how long vape stays in your body or want to know more about how your body metabolizes its compounds? Comment below, and we’ll do what we can to help out.