Employee Wellness Blog

Worksite Nicotine Testing: Is it Worth it?

Posted by Lisa Stovall on Mon, Oct 01, 2012

Nicotine TestingThe use of incentive programs to curb tobacco use is gaining in popularity among employers across the country. According to a 2011 survey by Towers Watson and National Business Group on Health, 43 percent of employers offered health plan premium discounts for non-smokers. Given the often high-valued health care discounts, many employers are turning to nicotine testing to discourage dishonesty and ensure incentives are properly distributed. 

But is it worth it to add a testing element to smoking cessation efforts? As incentives around tobacco usage become larger, ensuring employees are tobacco-free may be worth the fight. The economic benefit of having non-smokers on the payroll is huge. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) puts a $3,391 price tag on each employee who smokes: $1,760 in lost productivity and $1,623 in excess medical expenditures.

What types of tests are available?

TotalWellness offers a variety of nicotine testing options for employers who want to verify tobacco user status. We offer an oral swab, an on-site saliva test, a fingerstick blood test, or a venipuncture lab draw. All samples are collected on-site by trained staff. 

Oral Swab

For the oral swab a small collection strip is placed in the participants' mouth and rubbed gently on the cheek to collect a sample. We utilize a product called OraSure. The sample is placed in a collection vial, labeled, and sent to the lab for processing. Participants receive results in the mail approximately two weeks after sample collection. Results are also electronically transferred to TotalWellness.

On-site Saliva Test

For the saliva test participants provide a saliva sample on-site by depositing a sample through a funnel into a saliva tube. The saliva is then applied to a testing card and results are available in approximately 20 minutes. We utilize a product called Accutest NicAlert. Sample results are provided to participants and recorded on their consent form. TotalWellness receives the consent forms and uploads the data.

Nicotine Fingerstick Blood Test

For the fingerstick blood test, staff collects a finger-stick blood sample from participants on-site on paper collection cards. The cards are mailed to the lab, New Century Diagnostics, and participants are able to access their results online within 5 – 10 days after the event. Data is also electronically transferred to TotalWellness.

Nicotine Venipuncture Lab Draw

For the venipuncture lab draw, staff collects a blood sample from the participant on-site. The samples are mailed to the lab, Clinical Reference Lab, for processing. Participants receive results in the mail approximately two weeks after sample collection. Results are also electronically transferred to TotalWellness.

How long does nicotine stay in the system?

When people smoke, the body processes nicotine and it will get rid of the substance over time. The length of time that nicotine stays in the body depends on the amount the person smokes and the number of years they have been smoking. 

Cotinine is an alkaloid found in tobacco and is produced when the body metabolizes nicotine after ingestion. Cotinine can be used as a biomarker for exposure to tobacco and is typically detectable for several days after the use of tobacco.

Legal Limitations 

Laws protecting tobacco users vary by state, so if you are considering implementing
tobacco-free policies or nicotine testing, it is best to consult with legal counsel to avoid potential pitfalls.

Image Source: Fried Dough

Topics: Biometric Screenings, Employee Benefits