Tobacco Laboratory

Smoking Out What Keeps People Hooked

The CDC Tobacco Laboratory aims to help reduce people’s contact with addictive and toxic substances in different tobacco products—from cigars to e-cigarettes. The laboratory has expertise in measurement science, and has developed special, high-quality lab tests that analyze addictive and toxic substances from tobacco products.

Photo of scientists working in the lab

Tracking Trends in Tobacco Use

CDC’s Division of Laboratory Sciences (DLS) measures harmful and addictive tobacco ingredients found in blood and urine samples from participants in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). The ongoing survey tracks the physical and nutritional health of adults and children in the United States.

DLS measurements of cotinine and 3-hydroxycotinine—markers of nicotine—in the national survey have shown that harmful exposures occur in both smokers and nonsmokers. For example, in the early 1990s the data revealed that 88% of nonsmoking Americans were exposed to tobacco smoke. This led to protective measures like smoking restrictions in public buildings.

DLS continues to support public health efforts by identifying groups who are at risk from secondhand smoke exposure, including children.

Offering Data Solutions

DLS offers baseline lab data that are important in science-based tobacco regulation by the Food and Drug Administration. These include measurements of addictive and toxic substances in tobacco products and smoke, and in urine and blood from tobacco users or persons in contact with secondhand smoke.

Every year DLS provides 700,000 analytical results for a population study on the behavioral and health effects of the 2009 Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act. The law aims to help discourage minors and young adults from smoking.