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Cannabis may be ingested in a number of ways, but the most famous route of administration is still via smoking or inhaling the drug. Cannabis items are usually smoked (with or without tobacco) through a pipe or by means of a cigarette (also known as a ‘joint’). The pipes come in a huge selection of sizes and forms but frequently have long stems or add a ‘hookah-type’ water filtration system (i.e., water pipe) and are referred to as a ‘bong’. When a water pipe is used, cannabis smoke is cooled by the water in an effort to reduce its harshness and temperature, which can scald the throat (Booth, 2003).

Little reports have been conducted in to the specific harms associated with smoking cannabis by way of a water pipe or bong. Few studies examining cannabis use, apart from those relating to the medical use of the drug, have differentiated involving the various methods of delivery (i.e., smoking via joints or water pipes, ingesting in food) and little is well known regarding distinct administration routes, their relationship to drug use patterns, and related harms.

Lately, we have seen a resurgence in popularity in the use of hookahs or ‘shisha’ to smoke shop, particularly flavoured cigarettes and tobacco products. The traditional Middle Eastern water pipe is currently widely smoked around the world, particularly by students and adolescents. As a result of utilization of healthy-sounding fruit flavouring and the social way it is almost always used (i.e., in restaurants and cafes), it is often thought to be a ‘safer’ substitute for cigarettes. As a result of this recent popularity, we have seen a growing amount of research conducted examining the harms associated with the aid of the shisha.

This bulletin will examine the origin of the water pipe and what we should understand about the harms connected with smoking cannabis using a bong, particularly in comparison with other routes of administration. Since the scientific studies are limited in this field, an study of the existing evidence concerning the harms related to water pipe tobacco smoking is included in addition to consideration of how these details may be used in cannabis prevention activities.

Origins of the water pipe – The use of water in a smoking apparatus is ancient, with Persian hookahs or ‘narghiles’ illustrative types of early smoking water pipes (Erickson, Jarvie & Miller, 1977). Within their 1997 US patent to have an ‘improved smoking water pipe or bong’, the authors describe the procedure as follows – “… smoke through the substance being combusted is directed through a tube discharging underneath the surface of water in a potlike container before passing therefrom via a second tube towards the mouth from the smoker.”

Where the water pipe actually originated is unclear, while there is increasing evidence to suggest that bongs were first employed to smoke cannabis in Africa. Based on the archaeological evidence available during the time of writing, Phillips (1983) hypothesised that cannabis was smoked in water pipes in eastern and southern Africa before the introduction of tobacco. He thought that the discovery in Ethiopia water pipe bowls, “definitely associated with the smoking of cannabis”, tends bqlsqo confirm speculation of your African origin from the water pipe. Others believe they originated in China or Persia, but in these instances the instruments were thought to be utilized to smoke tobacco.

The word ‘bong’ is an adaptation in the Thai word baung, which describes a cylindrical pipe or tube cut from bamboo. One of many earliest recorded uses of the word in the West is in the McFarland Thai-English Dictionary, published in 1944, which describes one of the meanings of ‘bong’ inside the Thai language as, “a bamboo water pipe for smoking kancha, tree, hashish, or the hemp-plant.” Erickson and colleagues (1977) believe that it is this version that has probably influenced the design of the current devices that include a “general cylindrical tubular construction”, with tubes of plastic as well as other modern materials replacing the hollow bamboo stem which was used before. Their description of how this type of water pipe works is as follows:

“The oriental bong, further, provides path for using atmospheric air to dilute the smoke before inhalation, in addition to provided oxygen for that combustion producing the smoke. Thus, an air admitting orifice continues to be provided venting the smoke chamber formed in the bamboo stem higher than the water in the bottom in the stem. The orifice is finger controllable, so that air may on the desire from the smoker be either excluded or admitted straight to the smoke chamber in order to dilute the smoke therein.”

A bong employed to smoke cannabis is comparable to a regular hookah in both construction and performance, except it is usually smaller and much more portable. The hole inside the stem described above, often referred to as the ‘carburator’, ‘shotty’ or simply ‘hole’, is generally kept covered throughout the smoking process, then opened to permit the smoke to be drawn in to the respiratory system so as to maximise the impact.