Can I Donate Plasma If I Smoke?


Matthew McClain

If you smoke and you want to donate blood, plan to refrain from smoking on the day of your appointment — both before your appointment and for three hours afterward.

Eligibility for Smokers

While tobacco use does not automatically disqualify you from donating plasma, smokers face some unique challenges that may impact their eligibility and donation success:

  • Nicotine constricts blood vessels, which can slow blood flow and lower donation yields. Smokers may produce 10-15% less plasma volume compared to nonsmokers.
  • The quality of plasma from smokers may be lower due to higher levels of nicotine and carboxyhemoglobin, which binds to oxygen carriers in the blood. This can impact the effectiveness for recipients.
  • Regular smokers tend to have lower iron and fluid levels on average, which are important for blood donation. Iron deficiency and dehydration are common reasons for deferral.

However, there are some steps smokers can take to improve their chances of a successful donation:

  • Refraining from smoking for several hours before and after donation allows nicotine levels to decrease and blood vessels to dilate, enabling higher plasma yields.
  • Drinking extra fluids, eating iron-rich foods and taking iron supplements can help boost hydration and iron levels in the days leading up to donation.
  • Using nicotine replacement products like patches may help cope with nicotine cravings during the time away from cigarettes needed for donation.

The Donation Process for Smokers

The plasma donation process for smokers requires some extra planning and precautions to ensure a safe experience. Here are details on what smokers need to know before and during their donation:

1. Inform staff of smoking status

When completing the health screening and history, be honest about how much and how recently you smoked. This allows staff to monitor you more closely for any issues.

2. Nicotine effects on blood flow

Nicotine causes blood vessels to constrict, which can temporarily reduce blood flow and volume. This means it takes longer to collect the required plasma amount from smokers. The apheresis machine may also have trouble maintaining optimal blood flow rates.

3. Prepare for possible side effects

Due to lower blood pressure from nicotine and slower blood flow, smokers are more susceptible to side effects like nausea, dizziness, headaches and fatigue. Drink extra fluids, eat a small snack and lie down if needed during your donation. Remain seated for at least 15 minutes after donation to recover fully.

4. Consider supplements/aids

To improve hydration and plasma yield, consider taking an iron supplement and drinking electrolyte drinks in the days before your appointment. Nicotine patches or gum may also help curb cravings during the 3 hour smoke-free period needed for donation.

5. Longer donation time

Smokers typically require around 20-30 minutes longer for their plasma donation compared to nonsmokers. Staff will need to keep the machine running and your needle inserted for an extended period. Be prepared for a longer commitment of time.

6. Extra monitoring from staff

Due to potential side effects and lower blood pressure issues, staff will likely check on you more often during your donation. They may also ask you more questions to verify how you’re feeling.

7. Post-donation care

After your donation, staff will check your vital signs, pressure and injection sites more thoroughly due to the higher risk for smokers. Take it easy, avoid heavy lifting and smoking for at least 3 hours after donation to aid your body’s recovery.

Benefits of Donating for Smokers

While the donation process may present some challenges for smokers, there are still important benefits that can motivate them to donate plasma:

  • Help others regardless of lifestyle: Your convalescent or type O plasma donation can help patients in need, regardless of your personal habits. Your donated plasma can save and improve lives.
  • Opportunity to kickstart quitting: Donating plasma on a regular basis can provide a goal and motivation to reduce or quit smoking entirely. Knowing you must refrain from cigarettes for donation days can help form a positive habit.
  • Health screening may prompt quitting: During the health screening process, staff may educate you on the health risks of smoking and how it impacts your eligibility. This can prompt you to seriously consider reducing or quitting smoking for your overall health.
  • Feelings of altruism: Many smokers report that donating plasma provides a rewarding sense of altruism and accomplishment. Being able to help others through donation despite lifestyle challenges can improve self-esteem and motivation to maintain the habit.

Tips for Smokers

Here are some tips for smokers looking to donate plasma successfully:

1. Refrain from smoking for 3 hours before donation

Not smoking for at least 3 hours prior to your appointment will allow nicotine to clear from your system and your blood vessels to dilate. This helps maximize the amount of plasma that can be collected. Aim to refrain from smoking starting around 3-4 hours before your scheduled donation time.

2. Drink plenty of water

Being well hydrated is especially important for smokers donating plasma. Aim to drink an additional 2-3 liters of water in the day before your appointment. Carry a water bottle with you during donation and drink regularly to maintain fluid levels.

3. Eat an iron-rich meal

Iron deficiency is common in smokers and impacts donation yields. Have an iron-rich breakfast on donation day like eggs, leafy greens or dried fruits. Take an iron supplement for a few days before if needed. Iron aids the production of new red blood cells to replace those kept in the apheresis machine.

4. Consider nicotine aids

If you struggle to go 3 hours without a cigarette, consider using a nicotine patch, gum or lozenge for a few hours spanning your donation appointment. This can help curb withdrawal symptoms and anxiety that may occur during the donation period. Remove the nicotine aid right after donation.

5. Avoid caffeine

Caffeine is a stimulant that can further constrict your blood vessels and raise blood pressure. Avoid coffee and other caffeinated drinks for at least 4 hours before your donation appointment.

6. Remain seated after donation

Due to potential drops in blood pressure from nicotine and plasma volume loss, remain seated for at least 15-20 minutes after your donation is complete. Drink an electrolyte drink and have a small, salty snack to aid fluid balance. Avoid standing up quickly.

7. Maintain a relaxed attitude

Going into your plasma donation with a calm, relaxed attitude can boost your chances of success. Avoid becoming anxious or worked up that you haven’t smoked in a few hours. Focus on the positive impact your donation will have. Request frequent water breaks from staff.

In summary, while smoking poses some challenges for plasma donation, determined smokers can still donate successfully by following staff recommendations, abstaining from nicotine for several hours before and after donation, and maintaining a healthy diet and lifestyle. With preparation and perseverance, smokers can overcome obstacles to provide this lifesaving donation.


1. Can you donate plasma if you vape?

Yes, vaping does not automatically disqualify you from donating plasma. However, nicotine from vaping can still impact your donation by constricting blood vessels and lowering plasma volumes. It’s recommended to refrain from vaping for at least 3 hours before and after donation to improve success. Let staff know about your vaping habits.

2. Can I donate blood if I smoke weed?

Smoking marijuana can disqualify you from donating plasma depending on the center’s policies. While weed is legal in some places, it remains illegal at the federal level which governs blood donation. Most centers will not accept donors who test positive for THC.

3. Will smoking disqualify me from donating?

Smoking does not automatically disqualify you from donating plasma. However, nicotine use may impact factors like your iron levels, hydration and plasma volume – leading some smokers to be deferred. But many smokers are still able to donate successfully with planning, lifestyle changes and by refraining from smoking for several hours surrounding donation.

4. How does smoking affect plasma donation?

Nicotine from cigarettes constricts blood vessels, which can lower plasma volume yields, slow blood flow and increase side effects. Smokers often require longer donations and more monitoring. Their plasma quality may also be slightly impacted with higher nicotine and carbon monoxide. However, these issues can be minimized.

5. How long should I refrain from smoking before donating?

Most experts recommend abstaining from smoking for at least 3 hours before and 3 hours after donating plasma. This allows nicotine to clear from your system and blood vessels to dilate, optimizing plasma collection. Some centers advise up to 8 hours of abstinence.

6. What helps smokers tolerate plasma donation better?

To tolerate donation better, smokers can hydrate well beforehand, eat an iron-rich diet, use nicotine patches or gum during donation, avoid caffeine and remain seated and hydrated after donation. A calm, patient mindset during the process also helps smokers manage without cigarettes for the required time.

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