I recently discovered that there are test kits available for smoking. One example is the Accutest NicAlert that can be used to test both saliva and urine. Here is the link to the company web site. The tests are based on the presence of cotinine in body fluids, a metabolite of nicotine. Here is a link to a discussion about this substance.
An interesting question with regard to NicAlert and similar tests for cotinine is why bother to test? Stated another way, what is the value of a semi-quantitative test that the subjects already know will be positive? Smoking is not illegal so there will be no market for compulsory testing as there is for illegal substances. This question takes us to a discussion of the wonders of the human mind. Here is a link to a web pages that responds to the question: Why test for smoking? Below are some answers:
- With increasing social pressure, smokers are increasingly likely to under-report or deny their smoking habit when questioned, especially to healthcare professionals.
- There is a growing trend for biochemical tests to verify self-reported smoking and to quantify nicotine intake.
Here's an additional set of possible uses for the tests copied from the Accutest web site:
- Prenatal screening—identifies people at risk from smoking which is a major cause of neonatal morbidity.
- Smoking cessation programs—helps measure compliance, chart progress and create counseling opportunities.
- Employee health promotion—encourages smoking cessation.
It's also interesting to speculate on some other possible uses of the test. For non-smoking employees working in smoky environments such as bars, the presence of a positive test would provide evidence of an unsafe environment. However, the harm of passive smoking is well accepted and requires little additional proof. I suspect that most states already prohibit smoking in public places.