How do insurance companies test for smoking?

Written by david arnold
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How do insurance companies test for smoking?
Insurance companies test for nicotine using urine, blood, hair, and saliva. (Hand of smoker image by Nickitka from Fotolia.com)

Health and life insurance companies consider smoking a liability because smokers are more risky to insure. To identify smokers, insurance companies administer tests to detect nicotine use.

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Urine

Urine tests detect the nicotine biproduct cotinine. Urine kits contain a urine cup and reactive agents that will turn urine pink or red. Red indicates heavy smoking, while pink indicates light smoking habits. Insurance agents can perform these tests, and results are immediate.

Saliva

Saliva tests also detect nicotine and cotinine. Like a DNA test, a saliva kit swabs areas of the cheek in the mouth and is then placed with a reactive like that of the urine kit to form a colour to indicate cotinine presence. The agent also can perform this test, with immediate results.

Blood

Although this process is used less frequently because of processing time, blood is taken intraveneouly. This test can recognise nicotine and cotinine in the blood. Results take a few days and are performed by a phlebotomist or qualified health professional.

Hair

Although this process is rarely used because of costs and processing time, hair is processed like blood. This test also recognises cotinine. Hair is taken directly from the scalp to keep the follicle intact. This test usually requires clinical lab trials and testing.

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