Intended for healthcare professionals

Research Article

Verification of smoking history in patients after infarction using urinary nicotine and cotinine measurements.

Br Med J 1979; 2 doi: (Published 27 October 1979) Cite this as: Br Med J 1979;2:1026
  1. R G Wilcox,
  2. J Hughes,
  3. J Roland


    Urinary concentrations of nicotine and its major metabolite cotinine were measured in volunteers whose smoking habits were known to test the reliability of the measurements as indicators of current smoking. In the non-smokers detectable concentrations were always below the confidence limits set for the method, while in smokers the concentrations were always above these limits. After subjects stopped smoking cotinine appeared in the urine for longer than nicotine and was still detectable at least 36 hours after the last cigarette had been smoked. When this method was used to verify the smoking histories given by patients attending an infarction clinic it was estimated that 46-53% of previous smokers had actually stopped smoking compared with the 63% who said that they had done so. It is suggested that simultaneous assays of urinary nicotine and cotinine may be a useful means of verifying patients' current smoking habits.