Studies show that bongs can eliminate some of the harmful substances in marijuana smoke.
Water pipes, also known as bongs, happen to be one of the most popular ways to smoke marijuana.
How Bongs Work
Bongs come in a wide range of shapes and sizes. They can be made from a variety of materials including glass, acrylic, bamboo or ceramic.
Bongs work by passing smoke through water, thus removing various toxins and particulate matter that you might otherwise inhale.
Studies suggest that water filtration can be an effective way of reducing exposure to the cancer-causing compounds in smoke. Water also helps to cool the smoke, making it easier to inhale without irritating the airways.
Unlike marijuana itself, bongs are legal to buy in most countries and are often sold in dispensaries, novelty gift shops as well as online.
Types of Water PipesAcrylic and ceramic bongs tend to be smaller in size and less breakable than the larger, more delicate glass and bamboo models. This makes them preferable for travel or outdoor use.
Glass bongs have a higher risk of breaking or cracking. However, they remain a favorite of those who smoke frequently due to the transparency of the glass as well as the pleasing aesthetic. Glass bongs allow you to clearly see when it’s time to change the water, so you can be sure that you’re getting a clean hit.
Not only do bongs come in a variety of materials, there are also many different styles to choose from.
There is, of course, the ever popular straight-tube bong, featuring a large, bulbous base and a long, tubular mouthpiece.
You may also come across multi-chamber bongs, which have two chambers instead of one. The second chamber filters the smoke a second time, thus providing a cleaner hit than the classic, straight-tube bong.
Other styles include the percolator bong which makes for a stronger filter and cooler smoke, and the carburetor bong which provides the user with a more intense hit.
Entry-level bongs can be bought for as little as $10, whereas premium models can cost upwards of $1000.
Bongs vs. Joints
The main reason why many marijuana users choose to smoke from a bong versus a joint is the filtering effect the water has on the smoke.
When inhaling through a bong, the ash and tar that would normally have gone straight into your lungs get trapped in the water at the base of the bong.
Like with smoking any substance, burning marijuana produces a mixture of harmful compounds, many of which are linked to cancer. These include polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) such as benzopyrene, which are also found in tobacco smoke.
While studies involving marijuana are rare, studies involving tobacco have found that water pipes can trap as much as 90% of certain toxins.
What’s more, a 1991 study found that passing marijuana smoke through water removed substances called cytotoxins, which are known to impair immune cells. This suggests that water filtration may be beneficial for smokers with immunodeficiencies, such as patients with HIV/AIDS.
Bongs are also relatively easy to use and maintain compared to more technologically-advanced devices such as vaporizers.
What are the drawbacks of water pipes?
One drawback of filtered devices like bongs is that they seem to trap more THC than unfiltered devices.
A 1999 study found that water pipes produce smoke with a lower cannabinoid:tar ratio than unfiltered joints.
Specifically, water pipes seem to eliminate more tar than joints, but more THC as well. As a result, some believe that water filtration may be less efficient than other methods of smoking.
Even though water pipes seem to fare better than regular pipes at filtering smoke, they are likely not as useful as vaporizers when it comes to protecting the lungs.
Vaporizers are able to avoid combustion altogether by heating marijuana at a cooler temperature.
Regardless of what device is used, marijuana smoke has been shown to irritate the airways. In some cases, this can lead to mild lung problems such as chronic bronchitis.
How To Use A BongMost, if not all bongs will have at least four parts: a bowl, a downstem, a base and a tube.
The bowl is where the dried herb is placed, and is often removable. Once the herb is ground finely, the user will pack just enough to fill the bowl and then connect it to the downstem.
The downstem is a narrow tube that connects the bowl to the base where the water is held.
The base of the bong can be any shape, but is usually of a round, bulbous nature.
The tube is the final part of the equation, and acts like a chimney. Once the herb is burned (usually with a lighter), the user places his or her mouth on top of the tube and inhales the smoke.
To start the smoking process, press your mouth inside the opening of the tube, making a tight seal. Next, hold a flame to the bowl and burn the herb while simultaneously inhaling through the tube. This action pulls the flame into the bowl and helps to ensure that the herb is fully lit.
If your bong has a carb (a small hole), make sure it’s covered before you start burning the herb.
Once the tube is filled with smoke, you should remove the bowl, or if you have a carb, uncover it. This allows air to flow through the bong, pushing the smoke into your lungs as you inhale.
The recommended amount of water to use in your bong is between 1 and 1.5 inches. The temperature doesn’t matter, although many users claim that cold water provides a smoother hit.