All About Bongs

Most research on water filtration has previously been focused on tobacco smoke, but research on marijuana smoke has revealed that, except for respective psychoactive components (nicotine and cannabinoids), both smokes share many common traits and physical properties. 

Many of the results obtained from studies of tobacco smoke are also applicable to marijuana smoke.


In the late 1970s, a study was done by scientists based at the University of Athens Medical School (Greece) who conducted a series of chemical and pharmacological studies on marijuana and tobacco smoke.  The scientists tested the smoke that had been filtered through a water pipe as well as the water itself, containing both soluble and insoluble compounds. Chemical analysis revealed many different compounds in the smoke and in the water.


200px-Bong.svg[1]Water Filtered Smoke Richer in THC

The water did trap some THC, as well as other psychoactive compounds, however, most of the THC present in the marijuana passed through the water pipe unchanged.  Pharmacological tests (in mice) revealed that some of the water-trapped marijuana compounds were responsible for producing catatonia and for suppressing spontaneous motor activity.  In contrast, the water-filtered smoke itself did not affect the spontaneous motor activity and did not induce catatonia, and was richer in THC.  These results indicate that water filtration removes some behaviorally active compounds in preference to others; this may be important when comparing the therapeutic effects of whole marijuana smoke to water-filtered smoke.

toxic-smoke-1143607[1]Reduction in Particulate Matter and Quantity of Toxic Substances

Research has shown that water filtration reduces both the amount of particulate matter and the number and quantity of toxic substances in the smoke that passes through it. In a 1963 study by Hoffman the water pipe was found to retain 90% of the phenol and 50% of the particulate matter and benzo-a-pyrene of the original tobacco smoke.

Significant Reduction in Carcinogenic Potential and Gland Destruction

lungsIn another study, (Reference 6) tobacco smoke components that were passed through a water pipe showed only a minor hyperplasic reaction and no sebaceous gland destruction when they were painted onto mouse skin. (The application of substances to mouse skin to assess carcinogenic potential is a classic toxicological test; the induction of abnormal cell proliferation [hyperplasia] is a red flag.) In contrast, tobacco smoke condensate that was not water-filtered induced strong hyperplasia and complete sebaceous gland destruction when applied to mouse skin in the same concentration. Salem and Sami, also using the mouse skin test, showed that there was a significant reduction of carcinogenic potential in water-filtered smoke compared to the water remaining in the pipe i.e., the water-trapped material was more carcinogenic than the smoke that passed through it. Indeed, when analyzed by thin-layer chromatography, two carcinogenic agents were identified in the water itself, while only one was identified in the water-filtered smoke. Therefore, water filtration removes at least two known carcinogens that would normally be found in the smoke.

Less Impact on Immune System

Recently, Dr. Gary Huber at the University of Texas and colleagues from Harvard’s School of Public Health conducted a cellular toxicity study of marijuana and tobacco smoke.  This research group showed that passing marijuana or tobacco smoke through water, or even exposing the smoke to a wet surface of about 48 square inches, effectively removed substances (acrolein and acetaldehyde) that are toxic to alveolar macrophages. Alveolar macrophages are one of the major defense cells of the lung and are an important component of the immune system. When the macrophages were exposed to smoke that was not water filtered, there was a marked impairment in their capacity to kill bacteria. When the smoke was water-filtered, however, there was no reduction in the bactericidal ability of the macrophages, suggesting that marijuana smoke that has been passed through sufficient water will have less impact on the immune system than marijuana smoke that has not been water-filtered. This intriguing finding would be of particular importance when treating patients with AIDS wasting syndrome.

A Bong is commonly defined as a device, generally used for smoking cannabis, tobacco, or a myriad of other herbal substances, which uses water and/or ice as a filtration system.

Some suggest that the word “Bong” is said to have derived from a Thai word, “Baung” which means a cylindrical, wooden water pipe. Others say the word may have come from an early water pipe discovery in Africa with the Bong’om tribe. Historically, it is generally accepted that the bong was first brought to the United States by US soldiers stationed overseas in the 1960s. Since then, artisan glass blowers have made bongs into their own art form.

How a Bong Works

The basic concept of the bong is to cool the smoke being inhaled by passing it through one or several chambers filled with water or ice. The more contact the smoke has with the water, the cooler and smoother the smoke. Although these devices vary in size, shape, and complexity,  the one thing they all have in common is delivering a pleasantly refreshing smoking experience.

Essentially a bong consists of 5 pieces:
  1. Tube and/or base – the long, straight tube is essentially what defines a bong. These can vary in size from 8” up. The base is filled with a small amount of water.
  2. Downstem – a tube that slides into the side of the bong and into the water. These may also be slotted at the base to create more bubbles.
  3. Carb” or carburetor (generally a pull or a slide) – a hole in the side of the base to create clean airflow and clear the tube. (Most times, this means simply lifting the bowl off of the down stem.)
  4. Bowl – placed at the opposite end of the down stem, this is where the herb is packed.
  5. Percolator – a filter that creates bubbles in the water when smoke is drawn through the tube.
Many bongs today come with an ice pinch in the tube. These “pinches” in the glass, usually located at a mid-point or near the top of the tube, prevent the ice cubes from falling into the water (at least until they melt small enough to fall through). This additional filter of ice provides another cooling level before reaching the smoker’s mouth.

Why Use a Bong? The Benefits of Percolation

There is no denying the distinctive sound of a bubbling bong, but there is science behind that beloved gurgle. Although the level of filtration acquired is debatable, studies are promising that passing smoke through water helps to filter some of the toxicants that may be inhaled while smoking. With other smaller devices, such as pipes, cigarettes, or joints, the smoke is not filtered which allows small particles, toxicants, and even burning embers to pass into the smoker’s mouth, esophagus, and lungs, potentially causing damage over time. Using a water pipe, as the smoker inhales, the smoke travels through the water trapping particulate matter, as well as, commingling with clean air and water vapor, which essentially expands the smoke. As more bubbles are created, the more the smoke expands, and the smoother and cooler the hit.

With this in mind, there are many different types of percolation filters found in bongs today which are engineered to provide better airflow and produce a better smoking experience.

These are but a few of the most popular types of percolators:

  • Honeycomb – just like the name suggests, this filters the smoke and water through dozens of tiny holes.
  • Turbine – pulls smoke through 5-6 slots creating a cyclone effect in the water.
  • Hanging – a series of smaller tubes, hang in the center of the main tube to create more bubbles.
  • Inline – a small horizontal slotted tube near the bottom of the base
  • Fritted – finely porous glass filter, that almost looks like fibers, creates the smallest bubbles, which creates the most filtration but can also clog the easiest.

Other Pieces and Parts of a Water Bong

In addition to the percolator, the other parts play an important factor as well. The down stem, for example, has three common styles:
  • Classic Down stem – a simple glass tube with a flared end to fit the bowl.
  • Diffused Down stem – like a classic down stem, but with extra slots at the base to create more airflow.
  • Direct Inject – also called a “stemless bong”, this is built into the side of the bong.
Bowls also come in different sizes to fit whatever size stem is being used in the bong. Three sizes for glass-on-glass bongs are generally considered standard: 10mm (small), 14mm (medium), and 18mm (large). For water pipes with standard, down stems, 9mm and 12mm tend to be the most popular size bowls. Even the base of the bong may vary in shape from just a tube to a flared beaker-style base, or a bubble base.

The Variations are Limitless

So many options, combined with the artistic creativity of extremely talented glassblowers, equals an impressive array of intricate, beautiful glassware seen in water pipes. Some very elaborate pieces may have several chambers with multiple levels of diffusion and functionality, and others may be finely detailed sculptures of artistic splendor that sit on a shelf, never used. While some might only be used to entertain guests. Just remember the more complex the piece, the higher the price tag. Bongs can vary in price from very cheap $10 pieces to upwards of $20,000 or more.  A bong is considered by many to be one of the most exquisite ways to smoke. From the perspective of improving the overall smoking experience, a bong not only provides the smoothest, coolest hits; it is also a unique and functional piece of artwork.

Quality Bongs and Waterpipes

As with most things in this world, you get what you pay for. Handcrafting functional glass isn’t easy. It takes years upon years of practice and dedication to produce pieces like this. Once the craft is finally perfected, the actual time to make a piece is astounding! It’s not uncommon for a glass blower to spend multiple days making a single rig. Melting glass and shaping it into these amazing works of art is a lot easier said than done.  When shopping for a quality bong or waterpipe, look for reputable sources like Dankgeek online headshop.

As the legalization of cannabis has swept the nation, there has been a flood of new products and strains. There are new edibles on the market like pies, sodas, gourmet chocolate, and other desserts. And there are also new strains that have exciting new medicinal and recreational qualities.

With all these new strains, there are new ways to enjoy them as well. From bongs to pipes to steamrollers to joints, there are plenty of ways to enjoy your cannabis. But if you’re new to smoking marijuana, it can be difficult to know what method to use when smoking.

In this article, we’ll tell you the best and most efficient way to smoke weed and why it’s right for you.

Smoking Weed: The Methods

To give you a better understanding of how to be efficient with your bud and get the best high, we’ll go over some of the basic methods of smoking weed. This will help you understand basic concepts like conserving weed and why certain methods are more effective and efficient than others.

Joints and Blunts

Two of the most famous methods of smoking — joints and blunts — are convenient and a pleasure to smoke. Made of cigarette or cigar papers, these are just like their tobacco counterparts. Just light up and inhale at your leisure. However, rolling that great looking joint or blunt is no easy feat.

It requires well-ground cannabis rolled and a steady hand to roll a great joint. And therein lies the problem. Most smokers are inexperienced at rolling joints, and while you may take the time to learn, a badly rolled joint can waste a lot of weed.

It might not burn or will burn too fast. It might even burn only on one side, called “canoeing.” They also require more weed than other methods, which makes them inefficient for single users. This method should be reserved for experienced smokers who know how to roll joints or a willing newcomer with the patience to learn.


Another popular and more ancient method, pipes and bongs have been around for centuries. Simple in design, pipes have a bowl at the end with a hole in the bottom where the weed is packed. At the bottom of the hole is a chamber that leads to a hole at the end of the pipe, where the user inhales.

The user lights the weed in the bowl and inhales at the same time, generating smoke. There is also a hole on the side of the bowl that allows you to “clear” the chamber of smoke, allowing for bigger hits.

Pipes allow you to pack as much weed as you want into the bowl, making it great for solo sessions or a quick smoke. There are many different types of pipes as well, which allows you to customize your experience and smoke out of a work of art.

For example, you could get a spoon bowl, which is a smaller, more basic design for a bowl. Or you could get a more exotic bowl, like a Sherlock pipe, which mimics the more traditional pipe design of Sherlock Holmes’ pipe.


With a more complicated design involving water filtration and cooling, bongs, or water pipes, are a very interesting way of smoking. A bong has a tube with a beaker at the bottom. On the side of the beaker is a “stem,” which is a glass tube protrudes through the glass into the bottom of the beaker. At the top of the stem sits a bowl, which contains marijuana.

The beaker is filled with water before smoking, and the user lights the marijuana while inhaling through the tube. Using negative pressure, the smoke is forced down the tube and into the water, which cools the smoke and filters it.

Bongs are great because the cooling effect allows you to take bigger hits. They also allow you to pack as much as you want into the bowl like pipes. The only thing that makes them inconvenient due to the large size and the fact that you need water to use them.


As one of the newest methods of smoking weed, vaporizing isn’t technically smoking weed. You still inhale to ingest cannabis, but instead of smoke, you inhale vaporized THC and other cannabinoids. With no smoke, this is by far the healthiest option for inhaling THC.

To vape marijuana, you’ll need a vape pen or a vape machine. Vape pens are more convenient with refillable cartridges and chambers, while vape machines allow you to vape larger quantities of weed and get larger hits.

Vaping is a great choice because it is healthier and allows for a clearer experience than traditional smoking. This makes it a great choice for medical patients as well. The only downside to vaping is that the equipment can be expensive and it can be inconvenient due to preparation like grinding and waiting for the machine to heat.

The Winner

After reviewing all of these methods, there are actually two methods that are the most effective for smoking weed.

If you’re on the go in the city or out in the wilderness, the ease and convenience of a pipe are unmatched. Easy to store, easy to pack, easy to smoke. Plus it allows you to smoke quickly and get back to your day, which also increases the convenience factor.

However, if you’re looking for an at-home smoking experience, vaporizers are the way to go. Although they are expensive, they allow you to get a great high and you can use your spent weed to make edibles or smoke joints. It won’t be near its original strength, but the leftover THC in the weed will still get you high.

Experience the Most Efficient Way to Smoke Weed Yourself

Now that you know a little more about the most efficient way to smoke weed, you can go out and try smoking a pipe or a vaporizer yourself. Make sure to head to your local dispensary or headshop for more advice about which pieces are the right fit for you and your smoking experience.

Looking for more great tips like this article? Be sure to bookmark this site and check back often for new content.

Check Also

What Beginner Smokers Should Know About Vaporizers

If you’ve never smoked cannabis before, vaporizers are a great way to start. There’s no …

Medical Marijuana Blog

Accessibility Tools