Saliva cotinine and thiocyanate: Chemical indicators of smokeless tobacco and cigarette use in adolecents

Melody Powers Noland, Richard J. Kryscio, Richard S. Riggs, Linda H. Linville, Lea J. Perritt, Thomas C. Tucker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Recent attempts to measure smoking behavior using chemical tests may have been confounded by the use of smokeless tobacco. An objective measure of smokeless tobacco use is needed, particularly among adolescents who may not provide accurate self-reports of tobacco usage. Saliva cotinine was used to distinguish self-reported tobacco users from nonusers and a combination of saliva cotinine and thiocyanate (SCN) tests was used to distinguish smokers from smokeless tobacco users. The subjects were 471 students in grades 7 through 11 who lived in a high-tobacco production area. Approximately 89% of reported nonusers had no detectable cotinine and 99% of nonusers had levels <25 ng/ml. Of those who had used tobacco within the last 12 hr, 95% had detectable levels of cotinine. Samples that tested positive for cotinine were also tested for SCN. Eighty-six percent of smokers and 74% of mixed users had SCN values of >1000 μmol/liter, while only 14% of smokeless users had SCN values at that level. The combination of cotinine and SCN was effective in distinguishing smokers from smokeless users but was not effective in distinguishing mixed use from the other two types of use.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)423-433
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Behavioral Medicine
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 1988


  • saliva cotinine
  • saliva thiocyanate
  • smokeless tobacco
  • smoking
  • tobacco

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology (all)
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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