A staple in cannabis culture, the bong is a fantastic smoking tool that is beloved by many hard-core stoners and ‘one-hit wonders’ alike. The simple definition of a bong is a water pipe that has a water chamber that cools the smoke, making it smoother and better tasting. Although cannabis smoke does not cause cancer or emphysema like cigarettes, the heat and products of combustion (smoke) are the similar and can be very irritating to the respiratory tract. The coughing and burned lips associated with hot smoke from pipes is virtually gone when using a bong. This makes them perfect for those with sensitive lungs or those that just don’t like the taste when smoking from a pipe. 

Because bongs tend to be bigger and have a few more working parts than other cannabis smoking devices, they can be intimidating to some. They shouldn’t scare you, though. Bongs can be pretty easy to use and will make your smoking experience much more enjoyable. We’re going to cover the basic parts of a bong and how to use one properly. 

Parts of the Bong

There are 5 parts of the bong:

  • Water chamber: The water chamber is a section of the bong that, well, holds the water. It’s normally located at the bottom of the bong and has the bottom half of the stem in it.
  • Stem: The stem is a long, narrow glass tube that holds the bowl on one end and is submerged in the water on the other. The smoke travels down the stem from the bowl and into the water, cooling the smoke.
  • Bowl or Slide: The bowl, sometimes called a slide, is the round, bowl-shaped piece that holds the cannabis. It sits on top of the stem and is usually removable to allow you to clear the smoke from the chamber.
  • Smoke Chamber: The tube is the part of the bong that attaches the mouthpiece to the water chamber and is where the cooled smoke travels through to get to the mouthpiece.
  • Mouthpiece: The mouthpiece is the area you place your mouth and inhale the smoke.

Now that we know the anatomy of the bong, let’s talk about how to use one of these things!

Using a Bong

Here are the simple steps you need to follow in order to use a bong properly:

  1. Fill the water chamber – 
    • you can use either bottle or tap water
    • most bongs fill from the mouthpiece, some fill from the stem
    • fill the water until the bottom 0.5 – 1 inch of the stem is submerged (any higher and you risk getting splashed with bong water while smoking
      • pro tip – you can use ice to cool the smoke even more, which can be helpful to those that are extremely sensitive.
      • pro tip – you can substitute any cold liquid to add a little flavor to your smoke.
  2. Fill the bowl with ground up cannabis and place on the stem.
    • use your thumb and forefinger to pinch the cannabis and put it in the bowl
    • use your finger or thumb to gently pack the cannabis into the bowl, it should be firm but not tight
      • pro tip – when you try and smoke, if it is very difficult to inhale, the bowl is packed too tightly. Use a paper clip to stir it a little.
      • pro tip – if the cannabis burns very quickly and is gone in a hit or 2 or the airflow is very easy, it is too loose.
    • the bowl should be at least half full so the cannabis doesn’t pull through into the water
    • the bowl should not be packed higher than the rim of the bowl or it may fall out while burning
  3. Put the bong in a comfortable position so you can light it and place your mouth over or on the mouthpiece.
      • pro tip – have somewhere to set the bong down if you start coughing
  4. Hold either the smoke or water chamber or the bottom of the bong with your non-dominant hand – make sure you have a good grip.
  5. Bongs tend to generate more smoke than pipes, you will be less likely to cough if your body is prepared. Sit or stand with your back as straight as possible so you can take a deep breath. 
  6. Take a deep breath and exhale completely.
  7. Place your mouth on the mouthpiece, which on most bongs means pressing your lips inside the rim of the mouthpiece so there are no air gaps
  8. With your dominant hand, light the flower with a lighter for a few seconds. 
  9. Inhale slowly as you’re lighting the bowl, you will see the smoke filling in the chamber.
  10. Once you see the chamber about half full, set the lighter down.
  11. Lift the bowl off the stem, which will allow you to inhale the smoke in the chamber, known as ‘clearing’ the bong.
    1. pro tip – inhale gently, as soon as the bowl is lifted there will be a rapid rush of air.
  12. Hold your breath for 2-3 seconds at least before exhaling.

There you have it! Using a bong can be super easy and a lot better for your lungs. The water cools the smoke allowing for a more enjoyable cannabis experience. Check out your local head shop to see if a bong is right for you!