What is a bong?

What is a bong? What are its origins? What advantages does it offer?

What is a bong?

The bong, also known as a water pipe, tube, bing, or tube is a device that is used to smoke, usually cannabis, but can also be used for other herbs and tobacco and causes the smoke to be filtered through the water before it is inhaled by the user. It can be made from any material that can be molded and shaped, most commonly used materials are glass, ceramic, plastic, clay, porcelain, and sometimes metal.

How it works?

It is very similar to a hookah, but doesn’t require use of charcoal and is a bit more portable. The basic shape of a bong causes the smoke from the herbs to flow from where they are loaded, usually called the ‘bowl’ or ‘slide,’ down the stem, usually called the ‘downstem’ to a lower portion of the device that has water and then travel upward towards the exit, usually called the ‘mouthpiece,’ where the user makes a seal with their lips inhaling the smoke.

A bong can basically be made from anything that is airtight and will cause the smoke to travel from the bowl, down the stem, and up the tube. After the bowl has been filled with the desired herb of choice, it is lit and the user puts their mouth on the mouthpiece and inhales, drawing the smoke through the water. The user must inhale with a strong pull causing bubbles that contain the smoke to begin to come through water. There is usually a carburetor, also known as carb, choke, or carb hole, which allows additional fresh air to enter the tube that consequentially aids in pushing the smoke upwards and out the tube. The carb can be crafted in many ways, it can be a hole on the lower portion of the bong, that is covered with the finger while smoking until the user is almost out of breath and releases the hole to cause additional air to enter and push the smoke out. On some bongs, there may be no hole for the carb, and the bowl or the slide would act as a carb. The only difference would be that instead of releasing the hole to allow air to enter, the user would take or slide the bowl containing the herbs being smoked out, and away from the physical device itself. 

Bong Water Pipe Diagram

What are its origins?

It has been discovered during excavation of kurgans (ancient burial mounds or chambers) in Russia that Scythian people used bongs to smoke cannabis and also opium as much as 2400 years ago.

The first documented records come from around 16th century from China during the Ming Dynasty. During this time period, the bong had become one of the most popular ways to smoke tobacco. Usually the bong was thought of as a more common man method of smoking, but it is also known that Empress Dowager Cixi was very fond of water pipes, and was even buried with some of her favorite pieces.

The water pipes found during these time were mainly made either from bamboo, brass or metal. People of lower class more commonly used the bamboo water pipes, whereas people with more wealth or economic status used metal and brass ones. There is also a Thai word for bongs, which is ‘buang,’ and refers more specifically to the bamboo bongs.

What advantages does it offer? 

The bong has its advantages because it can cause particles that are heavier and water soluble to be filtered through the water and not allowing them to pass through the water, and being inhaled by the user.

It was concluded in a study, which was reviewed by NORML, National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, that unfiltered smoke causes white blood cells in hollow cavities of the lungs, alveolar macrophages, to become less resistant to fighting off bacterias versus smoke which is filtered through water. That same study also suggests that people who used water pipes had lower rates of carcinoma versus people who did not use water pipes, or people who smoked cigarettes, cigars, and regular pipes. These different aspects and comparisons show that filtered smoke from a water pipe or bong is less harmful than unfiltered smoke from other devices because bongs remove some toxic components from the smoke that are otherwise present. This ideas is put into even greater use by specially designed bongs that have multiple filtration chambers and setups that cause repeated filtration of the smoke multiple times before exiting the bong to be inhaled by the user.

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