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Why Are Bongs So Strong? Here’s the Science Behind the Rip

In lighthearted flicks likeВ Harold & Kumar Go to White CastleВ andВ Pineapple Express, the comedic main characters will pause their adventures at some point to rip a bong. Formerly called the water pipe, bongs are tools used to smoke herbal substances like tobacco or marijuana distinguishable by their tall stems and water-filled chambers.В

The origins of the water pipe is unknown, but it most likely hails from Persia, according toВ TobaccoВ in History: The Cultures of Dependence. The device spread throughout the Middle East as a way to socially smoke tobacco, similar to the way people gather around a hookah. These days, anyone can pop into a head shop and pick up a bong in varying sizes, shapes and colors.В

While lighting the herb-loaded bowl of a bong and inhaling, the smoke runs over the water and cools down, functionally similar to a hookah. It becomes smoother, so it becomes easier to take bigger-than-typical hits and achieve more powerful highs,В Mitch Earleywine, professor of psychology at the State University of New York at Albany, told Mic. But he added, people also tend to hold the smoke in their lungs too long, which irritates the respiratory system.

It’s common for people to anecdotally claim that bongs get them higher than joints or hand pipes. Some users on a Reddit thread discussed bongs delivering higher amounts of THC (orВ tetrahydrocannabinol, the chemical in cannabis that provides the psychoactive effects). Although research on bong efficiency is lacking, a 2000 study from marijuanaВ advocacy group NORML and the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, which tested several marijuanaВ devices, found that smoking from a water pipe did not deliver more THC than a joint. In fact, bongs might actually filter out some of the THC, but that’s not entirely proven. Still, the study didn’t take into consideration the larger inhales people tend to take.В

“You want to make sure you have a good connection and seal for whatever type of slide you’re using to ensure the smoke stays in and fills the chamber until you’re ready to clear it,” Alan Bader, CEO ofВ Elevate Accessories, told Mic. This way, no user is pressured to clear the bong in one hit and feel too high, too fast.В

Bottom line: the bigger the bong, the bigger the hit.В

This article was originally published on Feb. 5, 2016

In lighthearted flicks like Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle and Pineapple Express, the comedic main characters will pause their adventures at some point to rip a bong. Formerly called the water pipe, bongs are tools used to smoke herbal substances…

Demystifying the Bong, One Myth at a Time

Bongs, which you may also know by slang terms like bubbler, binger, or billy, are water pipes used to smoke cannabis.

They’ve been around for centuries. The word bong is said to have come from the Thai word “baung” for a bamboo tube used for smoking weed.

Today’s bongs look a lot more complicated than a simple bamboo tube, but they all come down to the same basic process.

Read on to learn more about how bongs work and why, contrary to lore, they aren’t actually any better for your lungs than other smoking methods.

Bongs come in all shapes and sizes. Some are very basic with just a bowl and chamber. Others are colorful, mouth-blown works of art.

At the end of the day, they all do basically the same thing: filter and cool the smoke that comes from the burning marijuana.

Bongs generally feature a small bowl that holds dried weed. When you light the weed it combusts. Meanwhile, as you inhale, the water in the bottom of the bong bubbles (or percolates, if you want to get technical). The smoke rises up through the water and then the chamber before entering your mouth and lungs.

If you’re looking for a smoother toke, a bong will give you just that compared to smoking weed 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 cannabis 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 marijuana, 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 pot 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.

Bong health risks aside, depending on where you live and local laws, having a bong with marijuana in it or even just some residue could get you in legal hot water.

Research also shows that marijuana-only smokers have more healthcare visits related to respiratory conditions than nonsmokers, regardless of the method used to inhale the smoke.

How do those fancy bongs, with all their bells and whistles, actually work? Plus, find out whether they're actually easier on your lungs than a joint.