You can still give blood even if you smoke, drink alcohol, or use cannabis regularly. A few things might disqualify you, like certain medications or underlying conditions.
According to the Red Cross, approximately 6.8 million Americans donate blood each year for transfusions.
There are many reasons why someone could need a blood transfusion, such as:
The blood that’s used for this important procedure is collected through the process of blood donation. Donating blood is a great way to help someone who’s in need of a blood transfusion.
When you donate blood, you’ll need to answer some questions about your health, lifestyle, and travel history to determine your eligibility.
Does smoking disqualify you from donating blood? Read on to learn more.
Smoking cannabis doesn’t disqualify you from giving blood. But the clinic is likely to turn you away if you show up to your appointment with visible signs of cannabis use.
In a statement to Healthline, the American Red Cross said: “While the Red Cross does not encourage the use of controlled substances, marijuana, cigarettes or alcohol use does not necessarily disqualify a person from giving blood. Potential donors cannot give while under the influence of legal or illegal drugs or alcohol. Legal or illegal use of marijuana is not otherwise a cause of deferral.”
Smoking cigarettes in and of itself doesn’t disqualify you from donating blood.
If you smoke and want to donate blood, plan not to smoke on the day of your appointment — both before your appointment and for 3 hours afterward.
Smoking before your appointment can lead to an increase in blood pressure. This may disqualify you from donating. Smoking afterward may lead to dizziness.
In the United States, possible disqualifiers can include:
- using illegal injection drugs
- using injection drugs not prescribed by your doctor, such as steroids
- feeling sick or having an acute infection on or before the day of your appointment
- being pregnant or having given birth within the past 6 weeks
- receiving a tattoo or piercing within the past year
- getting a blood transfusion or an organ transplant in the past year
- having HIV or testing positive for hepatitis B or C
- having had leukemia, lymphoma, or other cancers of the blood
- having had the Ebola virus
- having an inherited blood clotting disorder
- being a male who’s had sexual contact with other males within the past 3 months
It’s important to discuss these things when you arrive at the clinic to determine whether any of them apply to you.
The Red Cross now requests that blood donors postpone donating any blood until 10 days have passed after receiving a positive diagnosis or showing any symptoms of COVID-19.
The Red Cross also notes that if you have been recently vaccinated against COVID-19 with an mRNA vaccine or a vaccine containing an inactive form of the virus, you’ll likely be able to donate blood as long as you’re symptom-free at the time of donation. In other cases, you may need to wait 2 weeks before donating blood.
Taking certain medications may temporarily disqualify you from donating blood. They include:
- acitretin, a drug used for severe psoriasis
- blood thinners, such as warfarin (Coumadin, Jantoven) and heparin
- dutasteride (Avodart, Jalyn), which is used for enlarged prostate
- isotretinoin (Amnesteem, Claravis), an acne drug
- teriflunomide (Aubagio), which is used to treat multiple sclerosis (MS)
Depending on the medication, you may have to wait anywhere from 2 days to 3 years after your last dose until you’re eligible to donate blood again.
In rare cases, having taken certain medications will permanently disqualify you from donating blood. This includes human pituitary-derived growth hormone and the psoriasis drug etretinate (Tegison), both of which are now banned in the United States.
Your travel history can also determine whether you’re eligible to donate blood. You may be subject to a waiting period if you’ve recently traveled to a country with a high risk of malaria, such as Brazil, India, or parts of sub-Saharan Africa.
You may not be eligible to donate if you’ve spent an extended amount of time in places where variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD) is found, such as in many countries in Europe. This is a rare condition and is more commonly known as mad cow disease.
Having previously received a blood transfusion in France or the United Kingdom, both areas where vCJD is found, would also make you ineligible to donate.
Even though smoking doesn’t disqualify you from donating blood, it can eventually lead to conditions that can be disqualifiers for blood donation. These can include:
- Cancers: You cannot donate if you’re currently being treated for cancer or if you’ve had leukemia or lymphoma. People who’ve had other types of cancer may need to wait 1 year after successful treatment.
- High blood pressure: If your blood pressure is too high at the time of donation, you may not be able to donate.
- Heart and lung disease: If you’re actively having symptoms of a heart or lung condition, you’re not eligible for donation. Additionally, if you’ve had a heart attack or stroke, you may need to wait up to 6 months before donating.
After donation, several mandatory laboratory tests are performed on the blood before it’s banked. They include:
- blood and Rh typing
- testing for infections, including:
T cells, which can cause a reaction during a transfusion, are also removed from the blood.
Smoking doesn’t prevent you from giving blood, but it’s still a good idea to try to quit.
- You’ll lower your chance of developing heart disease, lung disease, cancer, and other conditions that can result from smoking.
- You’ll remove the risk of exposing your friends and loved ones to secondhand smoke.
- You’ll cough less and be able to breathe easier.
- You’ll no longer have the smell of smoke on your clothing, as well as in your car and home.
- You’ll be able to save more money since you won’t be buying cigarettes.