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A bong is a water pipe that filters smoke from cannabis before you inhale it. It’s vertical, consisting of a base (where the water goes) and a chamber where you draw in smoke. Like a pipe, a bong has a bowl for cannabis; smoke then travels through the downstem and into water, and then into the main chamber to be inhaled. Bongs are typically less harsh than pipes because the smoke is filtered through water.

“My friend brought over his six-foot bong and we got absolutely ripped.”

“I’m going to change out the water in this bong so we can get some clean hits.”

History of the bong

“Bong” is thought to have derived from the Thai word “baung,” originally a piece of bamboo used to smoke herbs. 

The ancient Scythians, living 2,500 years ago in central Asia, smoked cannabis out of gold bongs. Water pipes were also used during the late Ming Dynasty in China in the 16th century, and bongs and water pipes are also related to the hookah, originating in India or the Middle East. 

Bongs today are a lot more complex. Bongs are often made out of glass, but they can be silicone or other types of materials, too. The water in a bong cools smoke, making for a cleaner, smoother hit. It also catches ash from the burnt weed and filters some tar out—that’s why the water in a bong will eventually turn brown. 

Parts of a bong

  • Base: The bottom of the bong, which holds the water. Water is typically filled up to between the bottom of the bong’s downstem and the top of the bowl. The base of a bong can have many shapes.
  • Chamber: Coming up from the base, smoke is drawn into the bong’s chamber from the water, and then inhaled through the mouthpiece, which is at the end of the chamber. 
  • Bowl: A removable attachment where weed is placed. The bowl of a bong sits in the downstem and is removed when the smoker is ready to clear the smoke in the chamber. 
  • Downstem: A small tube connecting the bowl and the base of the bong. The bong’s downstem sits in water but doesn’t touch the bottom of the base. 

Advantages and disadvantages of using a bong

Bongs are great because they provide a smoother hit than pipes. Some say the water filters out some terpenes and cannabinoids, but it’s a negligible amount. 

One of the disadvantages of using a bong is that they are typically more expensive than pipes because they are bigger and require more skill to make. Bongs can also get dirty easily and can be difficult to clean.