A bong is a device that uses water to filter and cool the smoke from burning herb or tobacco. Bongs are one of the most common forms of consuming dried flower, especially among cannabis enthusiasts. But how does a bong work, and what are the benefits and risks of using one? In this blog post, we will answer these questions and more.
The History of Bongs
The word “bong” is said to have been derived from the Thai word “baung,” which traditionally refers to a round wooden tube of bamboo and has also taken on the modern definition of a cylindrical smoking pipe. Some have traced the use of a water pipe to filter and cool smoke back to China’s Ming Dynasty. Other reports show a history of use in Africa, where tribes would build earthen bongs into the ground using the same principles behind modern bongs. There are even accounts of ancient bongs made of pure gold being used by a nomadic warrior race in what’s now Russia.
Bongs are also closely related to the hookah, a type of water pipe generally used to smoke flavored tobacco. Hookahs use a hose as a mouthpiece and can be designed to allow multiple people to enjoy the smoke from a single bowl.
Today bongs can take on many shapes and sizes, but the most common versions are hand-blown from glass by artists who blend science and art, creating masterpieces that are both beautiful and functional. This wasn’t always the case, though. Throughout its evolution the bong has also been made from materials including hand-carved wood, bamboo, ceramics, and even plastic. Many appreciate the MacGyver-like ability to fashion just about anything into a bong, from Coke bottles to watermelons and everything in between.
The Anatomy of a Bong
The anatomy of a standard bong can be broken down into five basic parts:
: The bowl is the bulbous attachment where dried herb or tobacco is loaded and combusted. It’s often removable, allowing it to function as pull- or slide-carburetor.
: The carb, short for carburetor, is a small hole that allows the user to clear smoke from the entire chamber of the bong, completing the bong toke. The most common type of carb found on glass bongs is a pull- or slide-carb, which is exposed when the bowl is removed.
: The downstem is the small tube that allows the smoke to travel from the bowl down to the base, where it then percolates through water.
: The base is the bottom of a bong and can take many shapes, depending on style. A bubble- or beaker-shaped base is often used to create the water chamber in which the smoke cools as it passes through the water.
: The tube is the main part of the bong, ending with the mouthpiece. It’s where the smoke travels through after being filtered by the water.
How Does a Bong Work?
A bong works by using water percolation and diffusion to make rips much smoother. A vacuum-like airtight design forces smoke to bubble and diffuse as it travels through water, which filters contaminants and cools smoke.
Here are the steps involved in using a bong:
- Fill the base with enough water to submerge the downstem.
- Pack your herb or tobacco into the bowl.
- Place your mouth over the mouthpiece and light the bowl.
- Inhale slowly as you see smoke filling up in the tube.
- If your bong has a carb hole, cover it with your finger or thumb while inhaling.
- When you’re ready to clear the smoke, remove your finger from the carb hole or pull out the bowl if it’s a slide-carb.
- Inhale sharply to clear all the smoke from the chamber.
- Exhale and enjoy!
Are Bongs Better for Your Lungs?
If you’re looking for a smoother toke, a bong will give you just that compared to smoking herb or tobacco rolled in paper. As expected, the water in a bong eliminates the dry heat you get from a joint. The effect is often described as being cooler, creamy, and smooth rather than harsh.
This effect can be deceiving, though. While the smoother smoke might feel better on your lungs, you’re still smoking. And that smoke is still filling up your lungs (we’ll spare the lecture on why this is all-around bad news for your health).
Sure, a small amount of the bad stuff might get filtered out. But it’s not enough to make much of a difference. Yes, this means all those stories about bongs being the “safer” way to smoke are largely based on junk science. So far, bong safety has been pretty low on the list of priorities when it comes to medical research. But as herb or tobacco becomes legal in more areas, this could change.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other health organizations, smoke is harmful to lung health regardless of what you’re smoking because of the carcinogens released from the combustion of materials. Smoking herb or tobacco, whether via doobie or bong, can harm lung tissues and cause scarring and damage to your small blood vessels.
The tendency to inhale deeply and hold your breath when smoking herb or tobacco means you’re often exposed to more tar per breath. Plus, bongs are basically a way to get more smoke into your lungs while also making that smoke more pleasant to inhale. All of these aspects make it easy to overdo it when using a bong.
One other risk to keep in mind is related to the use of plastic bongs. Plastics that contain chemicals like BPA and phthalates have been linked to adverse health effects, including cancer.
Bongs are a popular way to enjoy dried flower, especially among cannabis lovers. They work by using water to filter and cool the smoke, making it smoother and more flavorful. However, bongs are not necessarily better for your lungs than other smoking methods, and they can still pose health risks. If you decide to use a bong, make sure you choose a high-quality one made of glass or ceramic, and clean it regularly to prevent bacteria and mold growth.
If you want to learn more about bongs and other smoking accessories, check out these sources: