Bong Science

When it comes to consuming cannabis, smoking it is among the most popular methods, but some people find it unpleasant and as with smoking any substance, burning cannabis produces harmful compounds. Nasty polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) like benzopyrene, which are also found in tobacco smoke, are carcinogenic and who wants to such those in, right?

You can eat or vaporize your weed, or you can make smoking more pleasant and easier on your health by using a water pipe, also known as a bong. It’s easy to make your own with bamboo or there are hundreds of designs available for as little as $10. Bongs come in all manner of materials, including glass, acrylic, bamboo, ceramic, and plastic. Basically, they all work the same way, passing smoke through water to remove various toxins and particles that you would otherwise inhale. The result is a cleaner, cooler smoke less irritating to your airways.

How cannabis water pipes / bongs work.
How cannabis water pipes / bongs work.


Studies suggest that water filtration can reduce exposure to the cancer-causing compounds in smoke. Water also cools the smoke, making it easier to inhale without irritating the airways.  Unfortunately most studies of water pipes involve tobacco, not cannabis, but they show that water pipes can trap up to 90 percent of certain harmful toxins. A 1991 study: Marijuana and tobacco smoke gas-phase cytotoxins found that passing cannabis smoke through water removed substances called cytotoxins, which are known to impair immune cells. This is why care-givers often suggest that people with immunodeficiency disorders use a bong instead of smoking a joint, if they are not using edibles as their primary delivery method.


When it comes to protecting your lungs, no smoke is perfect. Vaporizers are thought to be safer than smoking because they avoid burning altogether, and bongs have advantages over unfiltered smoking.  However, while bongs eliminate more tar than joints, but they also appear to reduce THC content. Since average potency levels in cannabis are higher these days than they were a couple of decades ago, this reduction may not significantly change the high.  But some people notice it.

Regular use of a bong is still associated with an increased susceptibility to bronchial conditions.

About Rob Taylor

Rob Taylor is a staff writer for Potcha who left the advertising industry fifteen years ago to live off the grid. A medical cannabis patient, he enjoys tinkering with grow techniques that enhance the strains he finds most effective in treating his condition.

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