How long nicotine stays in our bodies and what factors affect it

People today are more concerned about their health than ever before. Many people are trying to get rid of addictions, especially smoking. But what happens to nicotine in the body after a person stops smoking? Understanding this process can motivate and help people who are trying to quit smoking.

The path of nicotine in the body

Any form of tobacco use introduces nicotine, a poison that increases the risk of cardiovascular, respiratory and gastrointestinal disease. It interferes with cell division and programmed cell death, damaging cells and causing tumours. Nicotine also accelerates metastasis and impairs cancer response to chemotherapy and radiotherapy. It has been shown to block the production of oestrogen in brain tissue. Tobacco heaters and vapes are also bad for the body.

How long nicotine stays in our bodies and what factors affect it
"Smoking Cigarette" by lindsay-fox is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

When a person stops smoking, nicotine does not immediately disappear from the body. Instead, it is converted into other compounds with the help of liver enzymes. These conversion products are called metabolites, the most active of which is cotinine, which can remain in the body for more than 20 hours and is used as a marker for smoking tests.

Factors that influence nicotine withdrawal

Genetics and ethnicity. Some people are genetically predisposed to metabolise nicotine more quickly. Studies show that Caucasians eliminate nicotine more quickly than non-Caucasians.

Age. After the age of 65, the rate of elimination decreases significantly. Scientists believe that this is due to a general slowing of metabolism and blood flow. It is not known exactly whether nicotine metabolism differs in newborn babies. But it is thought to be 3-4 times slower than in adults. This is why it is so important to keep children away from passive smoking.

Gender. Studies show that women, especially pregnant women, eliminate nicotine more quickly due to increased blood flow and liver enzyme activity. However, even rapid nicotine elimination does not reduce the risks associated with smoking during pregnancy, such as premature birth and birth defects.

Smoking history and number of cigarettes. Smoking itself affects the rate at which nicotine is metabolised. The compounds in cigarettes slow down the elimination of tobacco smoke. The more you smoke, the harder it is for the body to clear itself.

Liver and kidney function. The better the liver works and the faster the blood flow to the liver, the faster nicotine, cotinine and other metabolites are removed from the body. The kidneys also affect excretion. Not only do they excrete cotinine and other metabolites, but they also stimulate the production of the enzyme responsible for nicotine conversion in the liver.


The process of nicotine withdrawal from the body depends on many factors. But regardless of how quickly the body can get rid of nicotine, the best way to protect yourself from its harmful effects is to never start smoking or, if you have already started, to quit as soon as possible.

Prepared by Mary Clair

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