Validation of self-reported smoking by analysis of hair for nicotine and cotinine

Ther Drug Monit. 1996 Oct;18(5):532-6. doi: 10.1097/00007691-199610000-00002.


Evidence suggesting the use of self-reports as an index of systemic exposure to cigarette smoke in selected study populations is highly inaccurate. In order to assess the use of hair analysis as a biochemical marker of cigarette smoking, we compared measurements of nicotine and cotinine in the hair and plasma of 36 volunteers whose reports of smoking were deemed to be reliable. A significant correlation was observed between the number of cigarettes smoked and hair measurements of nicotine (r = 0.48, p = 0.004) and cotinine (r = 0.57, p = 0.0008). In addition, a good correlation was found between the reported number of cigarettes smoked and plasma nicotine, plasma cotinine, and carboxyhemoglobin levels. These results suggest that hair analysis is a reliable noninvasive method of determining human exposure to cigarette smoke and is comparable to blood analysis.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Biomarkers
  • Carboxyhemoglobin / analysis
  • Cotinine / analysis*
  • Cotinine / blood
  • Female
  • Hair / chemistry*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Nicotine / analysis*
  • Nicotine / blood
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / metabolism
  • Smoking / metabolism*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires


  • Biomarkers
  • Nicotine
  • Carboxyhemoglobin
  • Cotinine