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Are Bongs Healthier or is it all Smoke and Mirrors?

by Angel Ferrer 5 min read

are water bongs healthier

Ever wondered if puffing through a bong is actually doing your lungs any favors?

While smoking in general is considered unhealthy, bongs when compared to joints and blunts are a much healthier alternative because they filter out harmful chemicals and cool the smoke through water filtration.

The health factor of your bong depends on a few variables from the water filtration to the size of your bong and bong rips, material, tar, and the much-debated percolator. So when it comes to just how healthy your bong is it depends on the type of bong you have, the features, and how you use it. Get ready to clear the air on just how healthy water bongs really are.

Busting Myths: do bongs filter out toxins?

do bongs filter smoke

Bong lovers often rave about smoother and cleaner hits, but ever wonder if it’s ever been researched?

According to a study by Dr. Nicholas V. Cozzi in 2000, bong water is quite effective at reducing harmful substances in smoke. In Dr. Cozzi's case study, he found that water filtration traps about 90% of phenols, which are tar components, and 50% of solid particulate matter (ash, resin, flower particles).

The study also highlights that bongs potentially reduce the presence of acrolein - a non-carcinogenic irritant to the respiratory tract, eyes, and skin - and acetaldehyde, a known Group 1 carcinogen (very bad for you). Both acrolein and acetaldehyde are toxic to the lung’s primary defense cells: alveolar macrophages

While Dr. Cozzi’s findings show the power of the bong’s water potential in filtering harmful toxins, it’s important to acknowledge the limitations. Non-water soluble toxins and gases like CO and CO2 can still pass through. So while bongs can diminish the exposure to some toxic substances, they do not offer a complete filtration solution and smoking regardless will be unhealthy, just a bit cleaner with water bongs.

Pro-tip: Use a Carbon Activated Bong Filter, which filters most tar, ash, resin, gasses, and carcinogens through a carbon-activated filter. This plus your water filtration will maximize the health potential of your bong.


The Percolator Effect: enhanced filtration or just hype?

do percs work

Percolators are the powerhouse behind a bong’s performance, or so they say it is, right?

Percs come in all shapes and sizes and work by pushing smoke into the water via numerous small slits and holes, a process known as diffusion. This interaction creates thousands of bubbles, which raises an important question: how well do percolators filter out toxins in cannabis smoke?

Dr. Nicholas V. Cozzi’s scientific experiments provide furthermore insight:

“Water filtration can be effective in removing components from marijuana smoke that are known toxicants while allowing the THC to pass through relatively intact. The effectiveness of toxicant removal is related to the smoke’s water contact area. Specially designed water pipes, incorporating particulate filters (bong filter) and gas dispersion frits (percolators) would likely be the most effective”.

So, while percolators might seem like just snazzy extras, they are vital for enhancing the filtration of your bong. The stronger the perc the healthier the rip.


How cooler smoke affects your throat and lungs

When you take a hit from a bong, something pretty cool happens - literally!

The water in your bong engages in a process called heat transfer. As the smoke passes through the water, the water absorbs a significant amount of heat from the smoke resulting in a much “softer” smoke.

Water has a high specific heat capacity, which means it can absorb up to about 4.18 joules of heat per gram, without actually heating the water. This capacity allows the water to cool down the smoke effectively before it reaches your lungs.

Why does this matter?

Well, inhaling hot smoke can irritate the respiratory tract, and lead to discomfort, coughing, and potential damage. Cool smoke, on the other hand, is much gentler on the lungs, making for a more pleasant and less harsh bong rip.

Pro-tip: If you want to reduce heat by an additional 300 degrees on top of the water’s heat transfer, then try a glycerin bong. Glycerin bongs force the smoke to travel through winding coils in the bong’s neck, surrounded by frozen glycerin. The result is the smoothing and softest bong rip for your lungs.


Material matters: Glass vs plastic vs silicone

In the diverse landscape of bong materials, not all get a thumbs up for health.

For those in the know, borosilicate glass is the clear winner, offering unmatched purity of taste and aroma due to its high resistance to heat and chemical stability. On the flip side, acrylic bongs when heated, have the potential to release harmful chemicals into the bong water.

Silicone bongs, on the other hand, are the unsung heroes of durability and hygiene. While they get complaints for odors, they are notorious for preventing microbial growth on the surface, making them a safe alternative to glass.


Impact of bong size on your health

Size matters, and in the world of bongs, bigger might not always be better.

While it may be true that larger bongs can cool the smoke more effectively - thanks to the extended travel distance and extra water filtration. Yet, they often tempt you into taking larger-than-life bong rips, packing more smoke and potentially more toxins into each inhale.

So if you’re using a larger bong, take advantage of the extra cooling and filtration and take it easy on those bong rips my friend. That will make your large bong that much more effective. And if you’re using a mini bong, I suggest taking much smaller rips as smaller bongs tend to deliver hotter smoke.


Maintenance and the risk of dirty bongs

A neglected bong isn’t just a sore sight; it’s a fertile haven for bacteria, fungi, and mold.

Regular cleaning is not just a recommendation - it’s a necessity to prevent the buildup of these harmful organisms. You want to stay on top of cleaning your bong after every other use or at least change the bong water after every rip.

One of the best ways to keep your bong cleaner longer is to use a double filtration system. This method traps ash, tar, and resin before they can dirty up your bong’s ecosystem. To learn more about how this system works check out our guide on how to keep your bong cleaner, and longer.


Herbal enhancements in bongs

Tossing herbs like mint or chamomile into your bong water might seem like a health-enhancing trick, but it’s important to stay grounded here. While they can enhance the flavor and potentially offer mild therapeutic effects they don’t fundamentally change the health impact of the smoke itself.

Consider them as the garnish to the dish - nice to have but not a game changer.


 Do water bongs filter out tar?

Yes, water bongs can reduce tar inhalation. Studies by Dr. Nicholas Cozzi and others show that bongs trap water-soluble compounds and heavier particles, effectively decreasing tar content, though not eliminating it completely.


Do bongs filter smoke?

Yes, bongs filter smoke. Research indicates that water in bongs traps both psychoactive and non-psychoactive components, significantly reducing particulates like tar. However, they are not effective at filtering gases such as carbon monoxide.


Bong vs Joints - Which is Safer?

Bongs are safer than joints as their water filtration significantly reduces inhalation of particulates like tar. Unlike joints, bongs avoid the toxins released from burning paper, offering cleaner smoke by filtering out more harmful substances.



Wrapping up, the evidence suggests that bongs, with their savvy water filtration system, might just be one of the healthier ways to smoke cannabis. Thanks to research by Nicholas V. Cozzi, we know that bongs can cut down on harmful particulates, such as tar, and avoid the extra toxins from burning rolling papers.

They provide a cooler, smoother smoke that’s gentler on the lungs, but that also depends on how big of a bong rip you're taking, right? Is a bong healthy? If you have optimal filtration, a larger size, clean water, and take moderately sized bong rips, bongs are definitely healthier when compared to other devices that don’t offer filtration or optimal cooling features.