Vaping 101

How Long Does Nicotine Stay in Your System?

Hemok Wang
Hemok Wang
Nov 21, 2022
How Long Does Nicotine Stay in Your System?

Are you considering switching from smoking to vaping because you hope that vaping will eventually make it possible for you to quit nicotine entirely? Maybe you’ve already switched fully to vaping, and you’re interested in stepping down to progressively lower nicotine levels. Perhaps you have a drug test coming up, and you’d like to see if it’s possible to stop your nicotine usage completely before that day.

In any of those situations, it can be very useful to know how long nicotine stays in your system – and if you’re going to decrease or eliminate your nicotine intake, it’s also important to understand what the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal are and how to manage them.

Read on, because we’re about to answer all of your questions about nicotine withdrawal symptoms and how long it takes for nicotine to leave your system.

 

How Long Does Nicotine Stay in Your System?

The half-life of nicotine is approximately two hours on average, although the exact half-life will vary depending on your body’s metabolic rate; it can be as short as an hour or as long as four hours. The term “half-life” essentially means “the point at which half of the original quantity remains.”

Suppose you have 4 mg of nicotine in your system. In that case, you’ll have 2 mg remaining in your system after approximately two hours. Two hours after that, you’ll have 1 mg remaining. Two hours after that, 0.5 mg will remain – and so on.

Note that knowing how long nicotine stays in your system isn’t helpful in understanding how long nicotine is detectable in a drug test. We’ll explain that in greater detail in a moment. However, it is helpful in understanding the point at which you can expect nicotine withdrawal symptoms to set in.

The fact that nicotine has such a short half-life helps to explain why people who smoke often tend to crave cigarettes quite frequently – after a couple of hours, half of the nicotine from your last cigarette is already gone from your system!

Even if you don’t plan to reduce your nicotine consumption, it’s still useful to understand how long nicotine stays in your system because nicotine is a powerful stimulant that can have undesirable side effects. For instance, nicotine has the potential to reduce your sleep quality if you consume it right before going to bed. If you can stop using nicotine a couple of hours before bedtime, the nicotine in your system will be reduced by approximately half.

 

How Long Is Nicotine Detectable in a Drug Test?

As you’ve just learned from reading the previous section of this article, nicotine doesn’t actually stay in your system for very long at all. As little as two or three days after your last time vaping or smoking a cigarette, you will essentially have no detectable nicotine remaining in your system. For that reason, drug tests generally don’t check for nicotine. Instead, they check for cotinine.

Cotinine is the metabolite left over after your body has broken down the nicotine you’ve consumed. It’s much more stable than nicotine, and it has an average half-life of about 16-19 hours. Just as with nicotine though, the exact half-life of cotinine can vary. Studies report that the half-life of cotinine ranges from 10-27 hours. Because cotinine has such a long half-life, it can remain detectable in drug tests for a very long time.

How long cotinine remains detectable in a drug test depends on the type of test used.

  • How long is cotinine detectable in a saliva test?About four days.
  • How long is cotinine detectable in a urine test? About four days.
  • How long is cotinine detectable in a blood test?About 10 days.
  • How long is cotinine detectable in a hair follicle test?Several months.

 

How to Use Vaping to Quit Nicotine

The reason why so many people use vaping to help themselves quit smoking is because vaping supplies nicotine to the body in a way that’s much more satisfying than any other nicotine replacement product. What you may not know, though, is that nicotine-free vaping is actually quite popular. In some regions of the world, e-liquid with nicotine either isn’t available without a prescription or isn’t allowed at all – and in those regions, many people have managed to switch from smoking to vaping without using nicotine.

Nicotine isn’t necessarily a required part of the vaping experience for everyone. Even without nicotine, vaping still replaces the flavors and rituals that make smoking pleasurable. If you’re currently using an e-liquid with nicotine, though, you don’t necessarily want to quit nicotine “cold turkey” because you’ll almost certainly experience unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. Instead, you should strive to reduce your nicotine intake gradually in order to make the experience as easy as it can be.

We provide detailed information on how to use vaping to quit nicotine elsewhere on this site. Here, however, is a brief summary of our advice.

  • If you’re still smoking, make quitting your immediate goal. There’s no reason to reduce the nicotine strength of your e-liquid until you no longer use any tobacco products.
  • After you’ve quit smoking and switched fully to vaping, give yourself a while to become fully accustomed to vaping and then switch down to the next lower available nicotine strength for the product you’re using. If you’re using a device or e-liquid with a nicotine strength of 20 mg/ml, for instance, you’ll probably find that the same product is also available with a strength of 10 mg/ml. Give yourself some time to get used to the new nicotine strength before reducing it again.
  • Continue lowering your nicotine strength gradually, allowing plenty of time for adjustment after each reduction in nicotine. If you’re currently using pre-filled devices such as disposable vapes, you’ll eventually need to switch to a refillable device so you can start buying bottled e-liquid. We offer a wide selection of vape kits that we think you’ll enjoy.
  • Once you’ve reached the lowest available nicotine strength for the e-liquid brand you’re using – typically 3 mg/ml – you can create lower strengths yourself by mixing standard e-liquid with nicotine-free e-liquid. For example, mixing equal parts of 3 mg/ml e-liquid and nicotine-free e-liquid will give you a strength of 1.5 mg/ml.
  • Reduce the nicotine strength of your e-liquid as slowly as necessary until you’ve switched completely to nicotine-free vape juice.

 

What Are the Symptoms of Nicotine Withdrawal?

If you ever tried to quit smoking before you switched to vaping, you know that nicotine withdrawal is a very unpleasant thing to go through. Even if you use a nicotine replacement product when quitting smoking, you’re still likely to experience withdrawal symptoms to a certain extent – so as you can imagine, you’ll almost definitely go through a withdrawal period when you stop using nicotine entirely.

The most common symptoms of nicotine withdrawal are irritability, anxiousness, restless and frequent cravings to smoke or vape. Many people also find that they have trouble concentrating or thinking clearly when they stop using nicotine. That’s probably because nicotine is such a powerful stimulant. Nicotine withdrawal symptoms can’t hurt you, and they’ll fade within a few days. If you reduce your nicotine intake very slowly, you’ll probably find that the withdrawal symptoms are mild and very manageable.

 

Will You Experience Nicotine Withdrawal when Switching from Smoking to Vaping?

You may experience mild nicotine withdrawal symptoms when switching from smoking to vaping even though you’re replacing the nicotine from smoking. That’s for two reasons:

  • You may not get precisely the same amount of nicotine from vaping that you do from smoking. That’s especially true in nations that restrict the nicotine strengths of e-liquids. When you experience nicotine withdrawal symptoms due to a change in your nicotine intake, you can simply vape until your cravings subside.
  • Although vaping replaces the nicotine from smoking, it doesn’t replace the thousands of other chemicals in cigarette smoke – and those chemicals interact with your body in complex ways that scientists still don’t fully understand. For example, tobacco smoke is a monoamine oxidase inhibitor that helps to reinforce addiction. Nicotine alone, however, doesn’t have that effect.

Although you may experience withdrawal symptoms when switching to vaping, the important thing to remember is that nicotine is the most addictive chemical in cigarettes – and you’re replacing the nicotine when you vape. If your body requires a period of adjustment due to the absence of the other chemicals in cigarettes, you’ll begin to feel normal again within a few days.

 

How to Manage Nicotine Withdrawal Symptoms

Even if you reduce your nicotine intake extremely slowly, you may still experience withdrawal symptoms when you finally step down to nicotine-free e-liquid. If you do experience cravings, the most important thing to remember is that you should try to stay as busy as possible. By the time you switch to nicotine-free e-liquid, you should have very little nicotine left in your system. You’ll probably find that the cravings will disappear quite quickly.

Hemok Wang
Hemok Wang

Hey! Hemok here, a vaping enthusiast with a passion for helping people quit smoking. My uncle was diagnosed with lung cancer a few years ago after smoking for more than 40 years. I do understand that quitting smoking isn't only a physical issue but also a mental one. It's just hard to go "cold turkey". I believe that vaping is one of the best solutions to make the switch only if you do it in the right way, and that's why I am here to share :)