How long does nicotine stay in your system?

cigarette image by Henryk Olszewski from

Despite the risks associated with cigarette smoking, millions of people across the globe continue to smoke. Although many will attempt to quit, research from the National Institute on Drug Abuse shows that these attempts are usually unsuccessful.

As many smokers explain, the overwhelming craving for a cigarette often weakens their will to quit and, succumbing to the urge, they smoke. So what's the cigarette's secret ingredient? What causes such unstoppable cravings? The answer is nicotine.


As with other drugs, when a person smokes cigarettes, nicotine begins to build up in the body and, over time, the smoker will begin craving it. When you become used to nicotine and then cut it out completely, your body wants it even more. And with nicotine, those cravings will continue until there is no more nicotine in your body.

Time Frame

Although most of the nicotine you consume (about 90 per cent) is quickly metabolised by your body's liver and then excreted from your kidneys, the remaining amount of nicotine remains in your bloodstream for about six to eight hours after smoking. Therefore, the amount of time nicotine stays in your body depends on how much nicotine is in your system. Based on the amount of cigarettes you smoke each day, there may be a small or large amount of nicotine present in your body.


On average, one cigarette delivers about 1 mg of nicotine to your body. So someone who smokes an entire pack of cigarettes (20) a day will have much more nicotine in his system than someone who smokes only five cigarettes. In other words, the more you smoke and the more often you do so, the more nicotine remains in your body.


If you're only an occasional smoker (someone who smokes 10 cigarettes or less per day), it will most likely take only a few days for the nicotine to leave your body. However, for a heavy smoker (a pack a day or more), traces of nicotine can remain in the bloodstream for as long as 30 days after smoking--and that's if you stop smoking altogether!


Although small traces of nicotine can remain in the bloodstream long after a person smokes her last cigarette, there are ways to speed up the body's clearing process. When it comes to ridding your body of toxins, water is your best friend. The more water you drink, the faster toxins such as nicotine leave your body. Since it speeds up your body's metabolism, exercise can make the process even faster. So just by drinking water and working out, you can help your body rid itself of the nicotine.