Can You Donate Blood If You Are A Smoker?

Many of us know the benefits of donating blood and how it can help the society in the time of need, such as the current Covid pandemic. The majority of people can donate blood; however, do we know for sure whether the people who smoke can donate blood? What about those people who use cannabis and nicotine products, are they eligible to donate blood? Let’s find out in this article.

Health clinics and hospitals all over the world use donated blood for treatment for illness, during surgery and what not for their patients.(1) World Health Organization shows that the blood donations which are collected all over the world are more than 117.4 million units.(1, 2)

Can You Donate Blood If You Are A Smoker?

Why Should You Donate Blood In The First Place?

Donating blood helps in many conditions including: surgery; serious injuries; anemia; chronic illnesses; cancer and blood loss from traumatic accidents.(1)

We Will Now Discuss Whether People Who Smoke Cannabis And Cigarettes Can Donate Blood Or Not?

Nicotine and Blood Donation

A smoker or a person who smokes nicotine and vapes is eligible to donate blood; however, electronic as well as tobacco cigarettes do have lot of harmful chemicals in them, which affects the blood of the person using it.(3, 4, 5) According to studies, greater than 7,000 chemicals (arsenic, carbon monoxide, ammonia) are produced by a burning cigarette.(13) Most of these chemicals are toxic and can cause cancer.

Other than this, e-cigarettes and nicotine also have harmful substances such as:

Acetaldehyde: This is a harmful product of ethanol alcohol.(6)

Propylene Glycol: This is present in antifreeze, paint solvents and certain foods.(7)

Diacetyl: This is a flavoring agent, which has butter like taste.(8)

Formaldehyde: This is a chemical preservative present in plywood, glue and disinfectants.(9)

Benzene: This is a chemical compound that is found in car exhaust.(10)

Heavy metals, such as lead and nickel.

At the moment there is very less information present with regards to the exact harmful effects of smoking on donating blood. However, one thing for sure is that smoking cigarettes and vaping leads to hypertension.(11, 12)

So, American Red Cross guidelines state that smokers can donate blood if their blood pressure is between 90/50 mm Hg to 170/100 mm Hg.(14)

Another study has done comparisons between blood donations from smokers and blood donations from non-smokers.(15) This study concluded the overall quality of the donated blood does not get affected by smoking cigarettes. (15)

Although there was a point of note that showed that blood donated by smokers had increased concentrations of COHb or carboxy-hemoglobin in their red blood cells. Carboxy-hemoglobin develops when the RBCs come into contact with carbon monoxide and this substantially reduces quantity of oxygen carried by the RBCs.

So, after these findings, researchers decided that smokers who want to donate blood should avoid smoking for about 12 hours before blood donation to avoid the harmful effects of smoking in their blood.(15)

Cannabis and Blood Donation

Similar to vaping and smoking cigarettes; smoking cannabis also does not disqualify anyone from donating blood. Research has shown that the use of cannabis causes harm to the cardiovascular system by:(16)

  • Increasing heart rate and blood pressure.
  • Vessel walls inflammation.
  • Blood vessels narrowing.
  • Increased risk of promoting blood clots.

However, it is thought that these potential harmful effects are not likely to affect the quality of the donated blood by a smoker.

However, it is highly recommended by the experts that people should avoid cigarettes, alcohol and any other recreational drugs before and at the time of donating blood.

Other Drugs and Blood Donation

American Red Cross states that individuals with a history of recreational intravenous drug use do not qualify to donate blood.(17) Keeping this requirement prevents spreading of hepatitis and HIV.

However, this does not apply for people using drugs in different ways, such as by taking them orally or smoking them. The use of drugs in this manner has not been stated as an excluding factor by The American Red Cross and companies who donate blood.

NOTE: It is always important to make sure when a person is donating blood that substances, such as cannabis and nicotine are not present in their system at the time of donating blood or that the person is not or that the person is not “high” at the time of blood donation.

What Is The Age Requirement For Donating Blood?

The minimal age requirement for donating blood is 17 years. A 16 year old can donate blood with their guardian’s consent.(17)

Who Cannot Donate Blood? (17)

A person also cannot donate blood if they are suffering from:

Unwell: Having cold or flu symptoms or if feeling sick.

Infection: Suffering from an active infection.

I.V. Drugs: Uses intravenous drugs that are not prescribed.

Uncontrolled Diabetes: If their sugar levels are not in normal range.

Diseases: Suffering from hepatitis B or C or being HIV positive. Also if suffering from heart or lung disease.

Virus: If the patient had the Ebola virus.

Blood Disorders: If the patient has a blood clotting disorder.

Blood Cancers: If the patient has blood cancers, such as lymphoma or leukemia.

Recent Blood Transfusion/Organ Transplant: If the patient has had gotten a blood transfusion within the past year or has had an organ transplant.

Tattoo: If the person has had piercing or tattoo within the past 12 months.

Travel: If the person has a recent travel history to a foreign country

Bradycardia/Tachycardia: If the person’s heart rate is less than 50 beats per minute or more than 100 BPM.

Pregnant/New Mothers: If the person is pregnant or has recently given birth.

Medications: The use of certain medications disqualifies a person from donating blood and these consist of: blood thinners, steroids, acitretin, isotretinoin, dutasteride and teriflunomide.

CONCLUSION

To conclude, smoking cigarettes, using cannabis and vaping does not make the person ineligible for donating blood. However, it is highly recommended that smokers should refrain from smoking for at least 12 hours before donating blood and a few hours after donating blood.(1)

A person can often feel weak or dizzy after donating blood; and smoking will aggravate these symptoms.(18) So, it is better to delay smoking until these symptoms subside.

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