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Marijuana Bongs: A Beginner’s Guide
Man using a bong

Bongs can eliminate some of the harmful substances in marijuana smoke.

When it comes to consuming marijuana, there are a number of different options. Though marijuana can be eaten or vaporized, smoking is still the most common way to use it.

Many marijuana users enjoy using a bong, also known as a water pipe. Bongs cool and lightly filter the smoke through water, making for a smoother and less irritating hit.

Studies support the idea that bongs can filter toxins out of marijuana smoke, meaning using a bong is likely a healthier choice than joints or pipes.

What Are Bongs?

What Are Bongs?

Marijuana bongs, also known as water pipes, are one of the most popular ways to smoke marijuana.

Unlike marijuana itself, bongs are legal to buy in most countries and are often sold in dispensaries, novelty gift shops and online.

The main benefit of a bong is that it lightly filters the smoke through water, which removes some of the pollutants and makes for a smoother, cooler, and less irritating hit.

A bong consists of a base, a tube, a bowl, and a downstem that leads into the water.

The bowl is where the marijuana is placed. 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 flared out to help the device balance on a surface. The tube is the final part of the equation, and acts like a chimney.

How To Use A Bong

To use a bong, the user places their mouth on the top of the tube and lights the marijuana in the bowl. When the user inhales, the smoke travels down the stem, into the water, and up through the tube into their airways.

If the bong has a “choke” or carburetor, it will need to be covered when taking the hit and uncovered at the end of the hit to allow clean air to fill the chamber. Removing the bowl and downstem also serves this purpose in bongs without a choke.

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.

Types of Bongs

Types of Bongs

There are many different styles of bongs available on the market, ranging from $10 all the way to $1000.

Bongs come in a wide range of shapes and sizes. They can be made from a variety of materials including glass, plastic, or ceramic.

Materials

Glass bongs are a popular choice for a number of reasons. Glass doesn’t absorb any odors, so it doesn’t change the flavour of the smoke. It’s also transparent — meaning you can see the smoke travelling through the bong while it’s in use. The major downside is that glass bongs tend to break easily, and can sometimes be expensive.

Plastic bongs are also quite popular, likely because of their low cost and high durability. Plastic also comes in many different colours, making it easy to choose a bong that matches your style. The downside is that plastic may absorb odors, changing the flavour of the smoke over time.

Ceramic bongs are beautiful, clay-like waterpipes that look great on display. Ceramic is heavy and breakable, however, so these bongs are less popular. They tend to be more expensive because they’re often made by hand. They’re fully opaque, so it’s important to remember to change the water regularly when using a ceramic bong.

Designs

Straight tube bongs are the classic style of bong. This design features a flared base and a long tubular mouthpiece. These are the simplest and easiest to clean bongs available, and they certainly get the job done.

Straight tube bongs can have different kinds of bases as well, including a round, bulbous base, a beaker-like base, or a straight tube that goes all the way down. The sky’s the limit when it comes to straight tube bongs.

Multi-chamber bongs are bongs with more than one water chamber. Anything with two chambers or more is included in this category, and available products range all the way to 7 or more chambers. These bongs filter smoke multiple times, resulting in a cleaner, cooler, and smoother hit. The downside? You’ll have to have strong lungs to pull the smoke all the way through these maze-like bongs. They also tend to be more expensive.

Percolator bongs (also known as bubbler bongs) are bongs that contain a percolator — a kind of filter that creates a bubbling effect. The glass dissipates the smoke, cooling it down more effectively and creating a smoother hit.

Gravity bongs are a unique style of bong that uses the vacuum created by flowing water to produce marijuana smoke. There are a couple of different designs, but they all use the same principles. These bongs tend to be homemade, using materials like buckets and pop bottles to create the effect.

Carburetor bongs are any bong that has a small hole near the bowl. The hole — also known as a “choke” —  is meant to be covered while pulling the smoke through the water. It is then uncovered when finishing your hit to allow cold air into your lungs.

A choke also stops more smoke from being pulled into the chamber as you are finishing your hit — saving some marijuana for whoever you may be smoking with. Some bongs also have a removable bowl that serves the same function.

Bongs vs. Joints

Bongs vs. Joints
(Photo: Shutterstock)

The main reason why many marijuana users choose to smoke from a bong rather than 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.

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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.

Drawbacks of Water Pipes

The major 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-to-tar ratio than unfiltered joints.

While water pipes seem to eliminate more tar than joints, they also eliminate more THC. This means that using a bong may be less efficient than other methods of smoking.

And although water pipes seem to fare better than regular pipes at filtering smoke, they are likely not as effective as vaporizers when it comes to protecting the lungs.

Vaporizers avoid combustion altogether by heating marijuana at a cooler temperature — thus avoiding the creation of harmful compounds in the first place.

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.

Summary

Marijuana bongs are a popular and convenient way to smoke marijuana. Filtering the smoke through water serves to remove toxins and cool down the hit, making for a smoother and more pleasant experience.

Bongs can be made of glass, plastic, or ceramic, and come in many designs, including straight-tube, multi-chamber, and percolator bongs.

When compared with joints, bongs appear to be a healthier choice for smoking marijuana.

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