The Difference Between Marijuana Pipes And Bongs

Moving away from cigarette is a smart move for many people as this method has a strong carbon component many are hoping to avoid. Both items offer a cleaner method of enjoying marijuana for recreational use, and not having higher carbon content is often very important for those who take it for medical reasons. No matter the reasons for wanting a one or the other there’s often confusion as to what either of these devices truly are, and how they work. The labeling of these devices in shops compounds this mystery, as those places where these items are illegal will sell both water pipes and bongs as incense inhalers with no distinction between them. To understand the real difference between a bong and a water pipe it’s necessary to understand how water affects the burning of cannabis.

What’s with the Water?

In both devices water is used. You light the marijuana bud in the bowl, smoke will start to gather and is then drawn down through the stream into the chamber. As the stem is allowing airflow the smoke interacts and the bubbles will form. The liquid then filters the smoke of impurities such as the carbon, and can add to the experience of smoking with a cleaner, purer draw.

Cold or Ice

Some believe that using very cold liquid or ice improves the taste, and “cools” the smoke making it easier to draw faster. Others use other liquids instead including herbal teas or alcohol to improve the taste, and reduce the smoky flavor. It’s important to remember in using any form of alcohol the THC content will be lowered by this exposure. It’s recommended to avoid the use of sugary drinks or liquids, as these will gunk up the inside of the device.

What is a Bong?

As noted this term and water pipe are used interchangeable. Technically a bong is filtration device that can be used for marijuana or tobacco. Other substances can also be used with some other substance with varying degrees of success. These are similar in construction to a hookah, but it’s a smaller device and therefore more portable. Most are constructed with an airtight vessel, a bowl and a stem. The bong has been around for many generations and was introduced in China during the 16th century. In the U.S. and the U.K. it’s possible to find them made of various materials including ceramics, glass, and plastic.

The Water Pipe Smoker

When most people mention a water pipe as opposed calling it by the other name they usually do so in describing a device that has the same components, but is taller and thinner than the average bong. Really, as a consumer most will see the word used so interchangeably it almost doesn’t matter. Before ordering or buying it’s a good idea if you prefer the thinner variety to check to ensure the device is what you really want.

Using the One or Other

Both devices work much the same and these are vastly different than hookahs or vaporizers in a number of ways. There is a slight learning curve in using either the pipe or the another device with a water chamber. The steps are fairly easy once the user gets the hang of the using all the parts together. First, the user will break apart the cannabis into smaller pieces, as this will burn faster than larger denser fragments. Then pack the material into the bowl carefully not drop to pieces, then if the pipe has a carburetor cover this with the finger. The carburetor is a small hole that’s used to clean the bong. Covering this with a finger will keep smoke from escape, and it’s safe since this area will not heat up. Take a deep exhale and then put your mouth on top of the bong cover this area firmly with your lips. While inhaling light the cannabis, and as the smoke rises continue to inhale. If there is a carburetor once done with inhaling release this and clear the bong and inhale the smoke.


In some places both these options are illegal under the Controlled Substances Act. Similar laws in the U.K. can make buying or selling either a pipe or bong complicated. In many places head shops will advertise these devices either for tobacco or to inhale herbal substance. After familiarizing yourself with a number of ways that these devices work it’s easy to walk in and buy one without having to ask questions a sales clerk might not wish to answer. In most cases unless stated otherwise what works for tobacco will work the same way for marijuana or a number of other substances. This is important since some shops will refuse to sell to anyone who uses the word bong or water pipe.