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With all the paraphernalia available online today, I see a lot of retailers selling bongs as water pipes, so I thought I’d provide some clarification.

A bong is simply a tube, usually at least 1 to 3 inch diameter sealed at the bottom. It could be made of bamboo, acrylic, metal, wood or glass, it doesn’t really matter- it just has to hold water. A real bong will typically have a base, to make it free standing. Most bongs are straight tubes, but some are custom with a slight back angle, so you don’t torch your eye brows off or catch your hair on fire when lighting. The bowl is attached to a down-stem, which inserts into the face of the bong near the bottom. Generally a stem will be about 4 to 6 inches long and a ¼ inch diameter. The stem reaches down into the bottom of the bong tube to reach below the water level and is sealed by a watertight rubber grommet at the hole on the front of the bong tube. The external part of the tube protrudes a couple more inches upward, outside the bong tube, where you screw on a bowl.

You hit a bong at the top of the bong tube, drawing the smoke through the bowl and down stem into the water. The smoke cools and rises through bubbles into the empty bong chamber above the water, filling with smoke. When your bowl is cashed, open the carburetor hole or remove the chillum and take your bong hit Note: a “bubbler” is just a name for a mini-bong.

Have you ever wondered what the difference is between a bong and a water pipe?

The first water pipes were made out of gourds. The top was where you put the bowl or chillum, which is on a down-stem reaching the bottom, below the waterline. A water pipe has a straw or pipe coming out at an upward angle from the side. Drawing on the straw pulls the smoke through the down- stem, into the water, up into the body of the gourd and out the straw or pipe. Many water pipes today are made of glass, ceramic or plastic.

There other types of water pipes, some are just one piece glass worked pipes with the water or bubbler chamber under the bowl. Then there’s the Persian hookah or huqqah, which is clearly a water pipe. Hookah is a single or multi-stemmed pipe for smoking flavored tobacco called shisha . The smoke is passed through a water basin before inhalation. So there you go, now you know the difference between bongs and water pipes, now smoke on!

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