Nicotine urine test approved
January 14, 1996
Web posted at: 11:45 p.m. EST
From Correspondent Kyoko Altman
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Food and Drug Administration approved a urine test Tuesday that can identify tobacco users, but experts are divided on whether it will help or harm.
The test called Nic-Check detects the level of nicotine in a person's body by exposing a chemically sensitive paper to a person's urine sample.
If the paper turns pink, the person has probably been using tobacco. If it doesn't change color, the person is nicotine-free.
The whole procedure takes about 15 minutes, costs about $2 and will be available to doctors in March. Nic-Check provides a more detailed analysis of tobacco use than standard lab tests, faster and for less money.
Some doctors say it will help them help patients who want to quit smoking.
"We have got a variety of different products out there that would help them quit, through patches and gums," said Scot Ballin of the American Health Association.
"This helps the doctor better understand what the patient, what the consumer needs."
The manufacturer, DynaGen, said the product was also developed to help insurance companies, which may charge higher life insurance premiums to smokers, and help employers that may not want to hire smokers.
But that's where the concerns come in. Civil rights groups say the test may be an invasion of privacy and could lead to even bigger intrusions.
"It's not just testing with regard to the nicotine in your system," said Theresa Nelson of the American Civil Liberties Union.
"You also have to realize that if your employer or insurance companies are testing people -- any type of invasive testing -- there's a great deal more information that they can get."
Eventually, DynaGen hopes to make the test available for home use. It's also developing another test to detect whether non-smokers have been exposed to second-hand smoke, a development that seems certain to further fuel anti-smoking fervor.
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