Nicotine cut-off value in human hair as a tool to distinguish active from passive smokers: A cross-sectional study in Japanese men

Masayoshi Tsuji, Hideyuki Kanda, Takehito Hayakawa, Yayoi Mori, Teruna Ito, Tomoo Hidaka, Takeyasu Kakamu, Tomohiro Kumagai, Yoneatsu Osaki, Miki Kawazoe, Sei Sato, Tetsuhito Fukushima

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


BACKGROUND: Nicotine concentration in hair is a useful marker of tobacco exposure. Detection of nicotine in the hair of non-smokers indicates passive smoking. Accurate measurement of nicotine among active and passive smokers can help in smoking cessation programs or programs designed to prevent secondhand smoke exposure. OBJECTIVE: To establish, using high-performance liquid chromatography-ultraviolet detection (HPLC/UV), a hair nicotine cut-off value to distinguish active from passive smokers. METHODS: Hair samples were collected from randomly chosen Japanese men (n= 192) between 2009 and 2011. Nicotine and cotinine levels in hair were measured using HPLC/UV with column-switching. T-tests and chi-square tests were performed to compare active and passive smokers, while receiver operating characteristic curves were used to evaluate the effectiveness of the cut-off value. RESULTS: There were 69 active smokers and 123 passive smokers. The nicotine and cotinine concentrations in hair were significantly higher in active than in passive smokers (p< 0.01). The area under the curve for nicotine was 0.92. A hair nicotine cut-off value of 5.68 ng/mg, with a sensitivity of 94.2% and specificity of 87.0%, was identified as the optimal cut-off value for separating active from passive smokers. CONCLUSION: Nicotine and cotinine concentrations in hair clearly distinguished active from passive smokers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)41-48
Number of pages8
JournalCancer Biomarkers
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Screening cut-off value
  • active smoker
  • hair samples
  • nicotine
  • passive smoker

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Genetics
  • Cancer Research


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