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How Do Insurance Companies Test for Nicotine?

Last Updated: Jul 24, 2015 | By Chris Sherwood
Cigarettes in an ashtray. Photo Credit Parinya_romeo61/iStock/Getty Images


When applying for life insurance, and in some cases health insurance, certain lifestyle habits may end up costing you more each months in premiums. One of these habits is smoking or other nicotine use. Employers who provide health insurance as part of their benefits package may also charge more in premiums for smokers. Even if you mark non-smoker on your application form, many insurance companies require a medical exam before offering coverage. Lying about smoking habits on your insurance application can cause an immediate denial of coverage.



Most nicotine tests are done using competitive immunoassay. In this testing process, testing strips are coated with a substance that acts as a cotinine antigen. The urine is mixed with a gold antibody, which will color the antigen line once the two come in contact with each other. Once the testing strip is placed in contact with the urine and antibody mixture, the mixture will absorb into the strip. If cotinine is present in the urine, the cotinine will prevent the antibody from coloring the antigen line, resulting in a positive test result. If no cotinine is present in the urine, the antibody will freely color the antigen line, resulting in a negative result.

Category: Insurance

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