WeEdu 202: Tools For Smoking

In the last installment of WeEdu, we talked about the most common cannabis consumption method: smoking flower. While seasoned smokers may be familiar with the various tools and techniques used to smoke cannabis, newcomers may have some questions. Read on to learn about the various tools used to smoke cannabis as well as the pros and cons associated with each smoking accessory.

Joint

Perhaps the most visibly recognizable form of cannabis consumption, joints are essentially cannabis cigarettes. You can purchase prerolled joints at a dispensary as individual units or in a small pack. You can also roll your own joints at home.

You’ll need to use a grinder to really break down your cannabis flower into small, shredded pieces. This increases the surface area of your cannabis, making it easier to roll and more likely to keep burning once lit. In addition to a grinder, you’ll need a pack of rolling papers. Some cannabis consumers also like to roll a filter into the end of a joint - these can be fiber-based filters like you’d find on a cigarette, glass-tip filters, or a rolled up piece of cardboard (also called a “crutch”). However, filters and crutches are optional.

To smoke a joint, simply light one end of the joint and inhale through the other end. If your joint has a filter or crutch tip, that will be the end you put your mouth on.

Advantages:

  • Easy to use. Doesn’t need to be continuously relit like a pipe.
  • Convenient way to smoke a large quantity of cannabis, especially if you’re sharing. Most prerolls contain around 0.5 grams of cannabis, but king-size joints can hold over a gram each.
  • Disposable. Simply discard the filter end of the joint when you’re finished, or save whatever is left of your joint (called a “roach”) for later. Just make sure your roach is completely extinguished before you throw it in the trash or stash it in your pocket.

Disadvantages:

  • Not discreet. Once you light a joint, it will keep billowing smoke until it’s extinguished. All that smoke means you’re going to leave behind a powerful odor. - Extinguished roaches also emit a strong smell, meaning if you have one in your pocket, others will notice.
  • Harsh on the lungs. Burning paper in addition to cannabis can irritate the lungs, especially if you’re smoking a lot of cannabis - which tends to be the case with a joint.

Wastes a lot of cannabis. Joints contain roughly 0.5 - 1 gram of cannabis each, but because they’re continuously burning, a lot of cannabis is lost in the air.

Pipe/Bowl

Glass pipes are often preferred by cannabis consumers because the smoke from a glass pipe offers a more unadulterated taste than rolling papers or even other pipe materials like wood. Many cannabis consumers also value glass pipes for the artistic designs they often bear.

Anatomically, a pipe is composed of a stem (which is where you put your mouth) and a bowl (which includes the chamber where you pack your cannabis). This is why pipes are colloquially called “bowls” - when you pack a pipe, you’re loading cannabis into the bowl of the pipe. Many pipes have a carb hole on one side of the bowl to improve airflow, but not all pipes have a carb.

To smoke a pipe, cover the carb hole (if present) with your finger, put your lips to the mouthpiece on the stem, and inhale while lighting the flower you’ve packed in the bowl. When you remove your finger off the carb, continue drawing on the pipe. This will pull any smoke that’s collected in the chamber of the pipe into your lungs.

Advantages:

  • More discreet than a joint.
  • Easier to conserve cannabis. You only need a little bit of flower, and you can take a puff or two and set the bowl down for later (unlike a joint, which will keep burning between inhalations).
  • Economical as a consumption method. Unless you break your pipe, you won’t have to buy any additional equipment or replacements (unlike joints, which require new rolling papers every time).

Disadvantages:

  • While pipes are more discreet than joints, they still produce a strong odor when you smoke. The pipe itself will also smell like burnt cannabis and resin.
  • Pipes are also harsh on the lungs. There’s no added burning material like rolling papers, but you’re still inhaling very hot cannabis smoke through a relatively short stem.
  • Pipes are prone to clogging. You’ll need to do some basic cleaning/maintenance on your pipe if you want it to work efficiently and produce smoke that tastes good.

Chillum

Popular among many smokers, a chillum is essentially a straight pipe. Instead of the curved “spoon” shape of most pipes, a chillum is tube-shaped, with a mouthpiece on one end and a bowl on the other end.

To smoke a chillum, you simply pack flower into the bowl end, put the mouthpiece to your lips, and light your flower while drawing smoke through the mouthpiece. Chillums do not have carbs, making them easy to use quickly while on the go.

Advantages:

  • More discreet if being used in public (at a concert, for example). It looks like you’re lighting a cigarette instead of a pipe - in fact, some chillums with a very small bowl called “one-hitters” actually resemble a cigarette but are made of metal or glass.
  • Easier to clean than a pipe when it gets clogged. Because there’s no bend in the shape, you can use a paperclip, toothpick, or safety pin to unclog the bowl.

Disadvantages:

  • Easy to spill, and may accidentally drop hot ash from an overpacked bowl if you’re not careful.
  • Unlike a pipe, which typically has a flattened bottom so it can be set down easily, a chillum may roll off the table.
  • May be more harsh on the throat and lungs since it’s a straight tube of smoke. Chillums may also allow some plant matter to get sucked through into your mouth.

Waterpipe/Bong

A bong consists of a base, which is typically filled with water, and a bowl, which feeds smoke through the water in the bong’s base by way of a downstem. Above the base is the long, tube-shaped chamber where smoke collects. Many bongs also have an ice catcher - a series of protrusions inside the bong’s stem so that you can drop ice into the chamber, ostensibly cooling the smoke you inhale. Some bongs also offer additional filtration options, called percolators, which allow further opportunities for the smoke to somewhat cool down before it reaches your lungs.

To smoke a bong, simply put your mouth on the end of the bong’s stem and light the cannabis flower you’ve packed in the bowl. Many bongs have a removable bowl, which functions much like a carb hole. Once the chamber has filled with smoke, pull out the bong’s bowl (if it’s removable) and continue drawing until you’ve cleared the smoke that built up in the chamber.

Advantages

  • Easy way to get a lot of smoke out of a single bowl pack.
  • Theoretically, the water and/or ice catcher in a bong may help reduce the temperature of the smoke.

Disadvantages

  • Water may filter out some of the THC in cannabis smoke. That means that even though you’re getting a higher volume of smoke per toke than you’d get from a pipe, that smoke may be slightly less potent by volume.
  • Even though the smoke may be cooler, a bong doesn’t necessarily filter out any of the chemicals naturally produced by burning plant matter.
  • Bongs require more frequent maintenance. The water must be changed regularly (ideally after every use), and because the base holds water it’s susceptible to bacteria and mold growth if water is left sitting inside the glass between uses.
  • If you spill bong water, it can leave fabrics like your clothing or couch smelling very unpleasant.

Bubbler

A bubbler offers some middle ground between pipes and bongs. Most bubblers are made of glass and resemble an ordinary glass pipe, except that the area directly below the bowl is typically deeper. That deep chamber is filled with water, and a small downstem carries smoke from the bowl through the water.

You smoke a bubbler just like you’d smoke a regular pipe. If it has a carb, cover the hole with your finger while lighting the flower and draw smoke in through the mouthpiece.

Advantages:

  • A bubbler will typically provide a slightly smoother smoking experience than an ordinary pipe. Much like a bong, bubblers can help with slightly cooling the smoke before it enters your lungs.

Disadvantages:

  • Also just like bongs, bubblers are not efficient at filtering out any of the chemical byproducts that come with combustion.
  • If you spill the bubbler, it will stink up fabrics the same way bong water would.

DIY Pipe

If you’re in a pinch, you can make your own smoking device at home! All you need is an apple and a pen!

To make a DIY pipe, unscrew a ballpoint pen and remove the ink. Then use the pointed, hollow pen tube to poke a hole through the top of the apple (after removing the stem). Push, twist, and bore your way to the middle of the apple, creating a hole that forms a slight angle from where the stem used to be. This will be the bowl. Then poke a second hole, this time into the side of the apple, so that it intersects with the first hole you bored in the apple’s top. This hole will be the mouthpiece. If you want, you can also poke a third hole to use as a carb.

Advantages:

  • Disposable.

Disadvantages:

  • Sticky/messy way to smoke.
  • The apple may alter the flavor of the smoke.
  • Not very discreet or practical - best used in times of desperation or when you just want to get crafty and have some time to spare.

Remember that every combustion-based method of cannabis consumption produces smoke, which can irritate the lungs and throat. For this reason, some experts recommend combustion-free methods of consumption, like using a dry herb vaporizer or eating edibles. However, every cannabis consumer needs to decide which method of consumption works best for their specific needs.

Questions about cannabis? Comments or feedback? Just want to chat? Email us at joey.johnson@weedu.io or eric.johnson@weedu.io.

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