While it's not illegal to smoke tobacco, users can face discrimination in various forms. They may have to pay higher health and life insurance premiums. Some states even allow employers to have no-hire policies based on the results of nicotine tests.
If you're trying to quit but worried you may still fail, here's a quick guide.
Nicotine saliva tests
Nicotine has a half-life of only two hours, so it leaves the body quickly. Rather than detect nicotine itself, these tobacco tests usually focus on looking for cotinine, a metabolite of nicotine with a much higher half-life of 17-20 hours. There is no fixed standard for saliva tests, and the most sensitive can detect tobacco use for up to 10 days after stopping completely.
Preparing for a saliva test
The ideal way to prepare would be to stop smoking 10 days before the test. What's more, you cannot use any nicotine-replacement therapies, like patches, gum, or e-cigarettes (unless the fluid is nicotine free). This won't be easy of course, but if you make it long term, you'll never look back. You could also ask your doctor to prescribe something that may help, but just steer clear of nicotine therapies.
It's not so simple to give up smoking of course. Some people stop through sheer willpower, while others struggle immensely. Even if you don't give up, try to minimize your smoking as much as possible. If you feel a craving, try to delay lighting a smoke by going and doing something else. The less you smoke, the better your chances in a nicotine test.
On the day of your test, do you think you can manage without a smoke, at least until you've taken your test? If you can, you'll be helping yourself immensely.
So, can you fool a saliva test for tobacco use?
Tobacco saliva tests can be very hard to pass because of their potential sensitivity. Some can detect concentrations as low as 1 ng/ml, and there are even semi-quantitative tests that show 10 different results for varying concentrations.
Just before you attend your test, you could use a detox mouthwash to thoroughly cleanse your mouth of toxins like cotinine. These are not like a normal mouthwash, and you'll need to allow some time to use them properly. You also need to make sure you give your saliva sample soon afterwards, but check the directions for whichever detox mouthwash you buy.
If you're lucky, the test they are using will not be ultra-sensitive, so you will pass without problems.
What if you still fail?
Extremely sensitive tests can be hard to pass, but you have one course of action left. Small concentrations of cotinine can be explained by secondhand smoke, so demand the exact numbers for your test and point to evidence that shows it may have resulted from time you spent in a smoky room the night before.