If a person smokes cigarettes or vapes, it does not disqualify them from donating blood.
However, both tobacco cigarettes and electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) contain harmful chemicals that may affect a person’s blood.
The American Lung Association claim that a burning cigarette produces more than 7,000 chemicals, including carbon monoxide, ammonia, and arsenic. Several of these chemicals are toxic, and 69 of them can cause cancer.
In addition to nicotine, e-cigarettes may contain the following harmful substances:
- propylene glycol, which is present in paint solvents, antifreeze, and some foods (as an additive)
- acetaldehyde, which is a toxic product of ethanol alcohol
- formaldehyde, which is a chemical preservative present in disinfectants, glue, and plywood
- diacetyl, which is a flavoring agent that tastes like butter
- heavy metals, including nickel and lead
- benzene, which is a chemical compound present in car exhaust
Currently, minimal information exists regarding the exact effects of vaping on blood donations. One thing to keep in mind is the fact that both vaping and smoking cigarettes can increase blood pressure.
According to American Red Cross guidelines, people can donate blood as long as their blood pressure is between 90/50 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) and 80/100 mm Hg.
In one 2018 study, researchers compared blood donations from people who smoke with donations from people who do not smoke. They concluded that smoking cigarettes does not affect the overall quality of the donated blood.
However, the researchers did note that the donations from the people who smoke had higher concentrations of carboxyhemoglobin (COHb) in the red blood cells. COHb forms when red blood cells come into contact with carbon monoxide, significantly reducing the amount of oxygen that red blood cells can carry.
Based on these findings, the researchers recommend that people avoid smoking for 12 hours before donating blood.
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