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Water pipes with long necks

A bong, also commonly known as a water pipe, is a smoking device. The construction of a bong and its principle of action is similar to that of the hookah , which is also called "water pipe". Smoking a bong contrasts with smoking a pipe or cigarette in two major ways: bongs cool the smoke before it enters the user’s lungs (making it easier to smoke), and a large amount of smoke is inhaled quickly as opposed to the smaller, more frequent, inhalations of pipe and cigarette smoking.

The user holds a flame over the substance to be smoked. As the user inhales, the flame is drawn towards the substance and the smoke travels through a hollow pipe that is attached to the bottom of the bowl containing the smokable material. The pipe enters into a vessel containing water. The hole through which this stem passes is airtight, and the bottom of the pipe is submerged in the water.

The smoke rises through the water, cools, and is trapped in the air chamber above the water. At the side (or back) of the container, above the water level, there is usually a small air hole (the "carb"), which is kept covered up with a finger until the point when sufficient smoke has been held in the air gap. Its purpose is to allow an easy passage of air into the container when the smoke is finally inhaled into the lungs. The fresh air from this hole helps to cool the smoke further. Most glass bongs have a "pull up" or "pull out" bowl which has a rubber O-ring to form a seal with the bong stem. The glass bowl is pulled out of the stem after the chamber is full of smoke, allowing clean air to enter the chamber further cooling the smoke and allowing the user to "clear the bong". For this type of bong, the removable bowl functions as the primary carb and it is only necessary to hold a finger over the smaller secondary carb in order to ensure a vacuum-like inhalation.

The base of the bong is filled with water. Sometimes other liquids/beverages are used, although alcohol and oils filter out some THC when used for smoking marijuana, because THC is fat-soluble, and, to a lesser extent, alcohol-soluble. THC is not water-soluble, which makes water the ideal fluid for filling a bong. The substance to be smoked is packed into the bowl and ignited. The user places his/her lips inside the mouthpiece, forming a seal, and inhales, causing the flame to be drawn toward the substance. An inhalation is known as a "hit", "pull" or "rip." If the smoker is using a larger bong, with a larger bowl, the first hit contains little or no smoke; its purpose is to draw the clean air out of the chamber and to start drawing in smoke from the bowl. When the user feels that s/he has inhaled a satisfactory quantity of smoke, s/he can pull the bowl out of the bong or release hizzer finger from the carb to introduce "clean" air. This action is known as "clearing" or "pulling the slide". If a smaller bong is being used, the hit should consume all of the smoke.

Some bongs have a small hole, called a carburetor or carb, choke, clutch, shotty, shotgun-hole, rush-hole, air-hole or even just finger-hole, in the chamber across from the stem. This is simply a valve that the user places his/her finger over when inhaling, allowing the chamber to fill up with smoke. The user releases the carburetor, then he/she is no longer having to pull the smoke through the downpipe and water so it is easier or more relaxing to smoke. The fresh air mixes with the smoke and forces the smoke into the user's lungs more rapidly than could be achieved through normal inhalation. Carburetor hole bongs use a hole to release the vacuum which allows air into the chamber. This has the effect of clearing the chamber of the smoke which is inhaled into the lungs. This method prevents the need to fill the chamber with carbon dioxide to clear the smoke before it becomes stale. They are easy to construct and often used in home-made bongs.

One of the most common varieties is the ice bong, which is a sub variety of a slide or carburetor bong. These are typically made of glass or acrylic, like the one to the left. Ice is placed in a twist or ice trap in the neck. This has the effect of cooling the smoke when the user comes to inhaling. These bongs are typically bright colors and are popular due to the durability, ease of use, and controllability. They usually have carburetor holes on the opposite side to the bowl or slightly to the left or right of that position. These tend to have larger chambers than other bong varieties, as ice is used rarely in smaller bongs.

A bubbler is a small bong where the stem is internal and the bowl is at the very top. A majority of the bong is enclosed with only a hole in the side to act as the carburetor and the hole the smoke will exit on its way to the user. These operate very much like a pipe since their internal chamber is so small but they have identical parts to a common bong. They are considered more pleasant to smoke out of than a regular pipe because the smoke is cooled through the water. They also do not produce the characteristic "chugging" sound of bongs when the smoke is inhaled, which makes them quieter and more desirable for those who need to conceal their use. Most bubblers are also a lot smaller than standard sized bongs so they are easier to conceal.

A shottie, also called a pull-through, shotty or popper, is made out of a plastic bottle and is similar to a bong, but replaces the bowl and stem with a tube, which may be used alone or with the aid of "bullets". In this context, bullet refers to a small tubular piece of metal of slightly smaller diameter than the shottie tube, with a ring of metal of the same diameter as the shottie tube affixed to prevent the bullet becoming lodged in the shottie tube. First, a small piece of tobacco is placed into the end of the tube or bullet. This can be achieved either by inserting a cigarette and cutting it so a thin slice remains in the tube, or by making a small disc or ball of tobacco to fit the tube. The tube or bullet is then stamped into a patch of finely ground hash or herb. The shottie is then smoked by gently pulling so that the substance is lit, then filling the chamber slowly- this is sometimes referred to as "brewing" the shottie, and then inhaling violently to pull the ash and unburnt tobacco ball into the water.

A gravity bong (also known as gravs, g-bong, GB, waterfall, plunger) does not necessarily filter the smoke through water but instead uses water to generate a slow and constant vacuum in the chamber. This offers the same benefit of delivering a concentrated charge of smoke to the user but is much more effective at making the smoke denser, thereby causing more chemicals to be absorbed. These bongs tend to be homemade devices using large plastic bottles and buckets filled with water, though glass gravity bongs are sometimes sold in smoke shops. Water percolation in a gravity bong by attaching a tube from the bowl piece, through the cap in the bottle, down to the water. This way larger volume of smoke inhaled and harder hit, which are main features of these devices, is achieved while still receiving a water filtered smoking experience. In a waterfall bong a small capped-off hole is cut on the side allowing more convenience in filling the bong with water and creating the vacuum. No smoke is lost since it is inhaled from the top. In a waterfall bong, which is not water percolated but works similarly to a gravity bong, a small capped-off hole is cut into the side allowing more convenience in filling the bong with water and creating the vacuum. No smoke is lost since it is inhaled from the top.

Glass Bong Bong which holds ice Bubbler
Typical glass bong Ice water bong Bubbler


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