- Bongs are a type of smoking device that filters smoke through water
- Studies show bongs can eliminate some of the harmful substances in marijuana smoke
- Bongs are likely not as effective as vaporizers at preventing lung problems
- Overall, research on the use of bongs is limited
When it comes to consuming marijuana, there are a number of different options.
Though marijuana can be eaten or vaporized, many still rely on smoking as a method of ingestion. Water pipes, also known as bongs, happen to be a popular type of smoking device.
What is a Bong/Water Pipe?
Bongs work by passing smoke through water, thus removing various toxins and particulate matter that you might otherwise inhale.
Studies suggest that water filtration can be an effective way of reducing exposure to the cancer-causing compounds in smoke. Water also helps to cool the smoke, making it easier to inhale without irritating the airways.
Bongs come in a wide range of shapes and sizes. They can be made from a variety of materials, including glass, acrylic, bamboo, or ceramic.
Entry-level bongs can be bought for as little as $10, whereas premium models can cost upwards of $1000.
Benefits of Water Pipes
Like with smoking any substance, burning marijuana produces a mixture of harmful compounds, many of which are linked to cancer. These include polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), such as benzopyrene, which are also found in tobacco smoke.
While studies involving marijuana are rare, studies involving tobacco have found that water pipes can trap as much as 90% of certain toxins.
What’s more, a 1991 study found that passing marijuana smoke through water removed substances called cytotoxins, which are known to impair immune cells. This suggests that water filtration may be beneficial for smokers with immunodeficiencies, such as patients with HIV/AIDS.
Bongs are also relatively easy to use and maintain compared to more technologically-advanced devices such as vaporizers.
Drawbacks of Water Pipes
One drawback of filtered devices like bongs is that they seem to trap more THC than unfiltered devices.
A 1999 study found that water pipes produced smoke with a lower cannabinoid:tar ratio than unfiltered joints. Specifically, water pipes seem to eliminate more tar than joints, but more THC as well. As a result, some believe that water filtration may be less efficient than other methods of smoking.
Even though water pipes seem to fare better than regular pipes at filtering smoke, they are likely not as useful as vaporizers when it comes to protecting the lungs. Vaporizers are able to avoid combustion altogether by heating marijuana at a cooler temperature.
Regardless of what device is used, marijuana smoke has been shown to irritate the airways; in some cases, this can lead to mild lung problems such as chronic bronchitis.