Legalization sparks innovation; bongs might see some creativity if cannabis is legalized
The legalization trend is real, and it seems to follow a familiar blueprint -- first medical cannabis use is legalized, then recreational cannabis use follows.
Australia legalized medical cannabis in 2016 sparking increase enthusiasm for a fully legal cannabis Australia sooner rather than later. Neighboring New Zealand did the same in December of last year, and promised a recreational cannabis referendum for next year, 2020.
With the legalization trend comes innovation. New ways of consuming cannabis are emerging globally. Others are being reinvented, thanks to the creative spirits motivated by cannabis legalization.
In Australia, one can expect the reinvention of the bong to be a booming enterprise if cannabis is fully legalized. The popularity of the device in the country is just so high that it has been ranked as the highest bong-using country in the world.
That being said, here’s all you need to know about bongs.
What is a Bong, What are They Used for and Who Uses Them?
A bong is a pipe-like filtration device used to consume cannabis and other dry herbs. In Australia, smoking with a bong is one of the most popular ways to consume cannabis. But bongs are also very popular among marijuana users around other parts of the world.
Bongs of various shapes and sizes have been used for centuries across various parts of the world, including Africa, precolonial Americas, Thailand, etc. In fact, the word bong, when it first appeared in an English dictionary, was said to have originated from the Thai word for a wooden pipe, made from bamboo, used for smoking. However, the word is now more popular among Australians than among any other peoples of the world.
Varying bong designs
In fact, bongs are the second most popular way of smoking cannabis in Australia, according to Australia’s 2007 National Drug Household Survey. In the survey, over 81 percent of respondents who had smoked marijuana within the last 12 months reported that smoking a bong was the most preferred way to consume marijuana, and this percentage was only superseded by that of those who preferred to consume joint/reefer/spliff, which came in at 84 percent.
A more recent survey, conducted in 2017 by the Global Drug Survey, found that Australians are the world’s biggest bong users. Also worthy of note is the fact that the use of bong is more prevalent among pot heads and heavy users than occasional users who prefer smoking a joint. In fact, another interesting fact found by the Global Drug Survey was that Australians are more likely to use cannabis than consume caffeinated drinks like coffee or energy drinks.
Categories of bongs
Nonetheless, regardless of your smoking preference, there are many factors that can make or break your overall experience when using bongs -- from the ease of the drag to the temperature of the smoke and overall comfort levels. These factors are primarily influenced by the bong’s design, including the tube type, base type, height, etc.
As the waxing trend of marijuana legalization is currently sweeping across the globe, we’re seeing a proliferation of the makes, shapes and sizes of bongs available in the market today. Basically, there are three main categories of bongs:
- The classic straight tube bong: Bongs in this category have been around for a while. They have a simple, straight design.
Straight tube bong
- The angled bongs: Bongs in this category have an angular design.
- The custom-design bongs or “Artisan glass”: Bongs in this category break the mold -- they are customized to the users preference, or sold in a customized design that doesn’t fit the other categories.
Bongs, regardless of the design, can be made from many different materials. Today, the most popular bong materials include plastic, silicone and glass. These basic types of bongs have varying designs within their categories.
What's different between using bong to consume marijuana and other ways?
A major difference between using a bong and smoking through other means is the fact that the cannabis smoke is cooled and filtered through water or other liquids before it’s inhaled. As a result of passing through the liquid medium, the smoke is rendered less harsh and toxic, thus minimizing the health risks that smoke might pose to your throat and lung.
Over time, the liquid in the bong becomes brownish as a result of the tar, ash, soot and other harmful particles it absorbs from the cannabis smoke.
But the reduced level of harshness and toxicity isn’t the only major difference between smoking a bong and smoking through other devices like a pipe, a joint or even a blunt. The bong gives you a greater high than any other smoking device. That’s because bongs come with a chamber that allows you to get a huge hit with every draw. With a greater hit inhaled and heading straight to your brain, you can expect to get a blast with every draw, meaning only a couple of draws are needed.
What are the health risks of using a bong?
Despite the popularity of bong use, the handful of studies carried out so far have brought about mixed results -- some positive and some negative.
A number of studies have disproved most claims of the filtering capacities of bongs. One of the most recognized bong studies was conducted by the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML).
In the study, smoke from seven different smoking devices, including joints, bongs and vaporizers were put under the microscope. These various smokes were examined for their relative tar and cannabinoid contents. The result of the study did not find any significant reduction of tar contents in bong smoke.
In light of these studies, there’s a need to embrace bongs with cautious optimism. Although it might be a comparatively good filtration device, it might not protect you completely from the risks associated with smoking. Smoking exposes your respiratory system to three major risks:
- Exposure to pro-inflammatory and carcinogenic substances.
- Lung damaging effects similar to those associated with tobacco smoke.
- With long-term use, there are risks of negative cumulative effects that might inhibit certain lung functions
What alternatives to bongs exist?
Not impressed by the potential thrills of smoking with a bong? There are several other smoking devices that come with their own set of advantages and disadvantages. Here are other smoking device alternatives you can try:
- Joints: This is one of the oldest, most popular, and most effective ways to deliver cannabis into your system. It is essentially a marijuana cigarette -- paper stuffed with cannabis that is burned at the tip and inhaled like a cigarette.
- Blunts: Similar to joints but different in term of sizes, composition and wrapping paper. Blunts are as popular as joints, but they differ from joints in terms of their larger sizes that holds more cannabis, and the cigar papers they’re wrapped in instead of rolling paper.
- Pipes and bowls: These also work as effectively as joints and blunts to deliver hits to your system for an instantaneous high. The major difference between the pipes and the joints and blunts is that you need to light the pipe each time you want to take a puff. This can be great for regulating your consumption, but can be really irksome if you’re smoking in windy conditions.
- Bubblers: These are basically miniature bongs.
- Vaporizers: These are devices that heat only the THC contents of cannabis to the point where these contents are vaporized to be inhaled, leaving behind the tar and other toxic contents of the cannabis. The popular versions today are vape pens -- miniature vaporizers the size of a pen, similar to e-cigarettes. They are loaded with cartridges full of CBD(Cannabidiol) oil or, in the case of dry vapes, cannabis flower.
- Dabs: These are smoking devices that allow you to inhale highly concentrated cannabis extracts through flash-vaporization.
Where's the best place to get a bong in Australia?
It’s illegal to consume marijuana through glass smoking devices. In fact, it’s illegal to consume marijuana for recreational purposes in Australia, period.
However, there seems to exist an eerie loophole in the legal system that allows stores to sell bongs. As a result, there are many on-ground and online stores in the country, where you can buy a good bong. One of the most popular bong stores in Australia is Offyatree. They have stores scattered across Australia and sell a vast array of bongs.
Cannabis advocates await full legalization of cannabis use in Australia. In the meantime, however, cannabis use is quite prevalent, regardless of its illegality. Following the 2016 legalization of medical cannabis, there is an increased hope that full legalization isn’t far off. With such, one can expect more innovative bong devices to result, given the country’s love for the device. Bongs are already available, but expect even more availability with such legislation. With that in mind, however, be safe in your use of these devices -- they may not be as safe as was once thought, and may just be on the same par as joints and blunts.