All You Need to Know Smoking and Job Hunting! If you’re a vaper on a job hunt, you need to know about how tobacco-free workplace policies may affect your career prospects. In most US states, employers are legally allowed to implement no-hire policies for nicotine users by using nicotine testing along with other pre-employment tests. There are certain industries and certain employers that will not hire smokers. Some of the reasons are due to the nature of the business, and the desire to promote wellness or a company focused on reducing group medical insurance expenses. This is a decision that must be made at the top. And it is a decision that will affect recruitment and retention. There are three major types of nicotine test: blood test, urine test, and saliva test. A fourth and much less common type is a hair or nail test, which is rarely used for pre-hire testing. Each of these tests has their pros and cons, and it is possible to beat the tests.
The best test is a blood test. But it is expensive and time-consuming. A blood test is very effective as it can detect the tiniest traces of cotinine in the bloodstream. Cotinine is an alkaloid found in tobacco and is also the predominant metabolite of nicotine. Cotinine is used as a biomarker for exposure to tobacco smoke. Nicotine is instantly absorbed into the blood system, no matter if puffing on a cigarette or a cigar or vaping. Interestingly, nicotine can be tested in blood as to the quantity. An expert tester can determine if a trace exists and how much is in the blood when the levels are high. Blood testing is usually done when very accurate results are required.
When nicotine enters the bloodstream, it’s metabolized into cotinine. Cotinine then mixes with your blood. Your liver kicks in to filter the toxins along with cotinine from the blood. Detoxification of nicotine from blood occurs very slowly. However, in contrast, the removal of waste products by the kidneys from urine is very fast.
Nicotine can be seen in blood 1-3 days after using a nicotine product. Sometimes it can take up to a week for the cotinine level in blood of a tobacco user to match the level of a non-tobacco user. The reasons are due to genetics, usage, and other factors.
Nicotine detection in urine is less invasive than blood tests and are cheaper and easier to administer. They are the most common method used to detect the presence of nicotine and cotinine for employment.
With saliva testing, it is the most sensitive method for detecting cotinine. It can also be used to measure the amount of nicotine usage, so it is quantitative also.
If you use tobacco, be aware that even if you manage to pass a cotinine test, you will have to hide your habit or not use tobacco during your work time and on premises, or else you will subject yourself to discharge from a tobacco-free organization. Retesting might occur.
If you are an employer and want to pursue this route, be sure to do your research as to why you want to do it, the best tests, how to communicate this to applicants, and how to deal with explaining this to current employees who may be smokers. Understand that this will limit your applicant pool and depending on your geographic location and type of industry, it may or may not be an issue. And talk to your group health insurance company as well as your company attorney before embarking on a final decision.
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Jean is a certified senior-level human resources executive/consultant, adjunct professor, management trainer, professional speaker, resume writer, career coach, and author.