Why We Don't Say Water Bong

Why We Don't Say Water Bong

Phillip Stokes |


Why We Don't Say Water Bong 

The word bong can be traced back to a Thai word, “buang” which was a specific type of water bong that was crafted from the bamboo found in the depths of the dense asian jungle. The theory and story goes that Vietnam Veterans brought back this smoking apparatus when they returned from combat and it quickly caught on in the United States, but the history of bongs goes back even further than this! The water bong was actually invented in Africa, Ethiopia to be exact, and featured hand-held water bongs usually crafted from pottery or animal horns. Smoking product out of a water bong is one of the classic ways to consume our favorite leafy green herb and you’ll hear that sentiment echoed by new smokers and old heads alike; you just can’t replicate the feeling a water bong produces! 

The man that brought the water bong to the United States in the 70s and 80s was Bob Snodgrass. Hailed as The Godfather of glassblowing by the godfathers of glassblowing, Bob Snodgrass, legendary lamp-worker and glass blower, discovered the process of fuming sometime in the late 70’s or early 80’s while he was following the Grateful Dead around the United States. Due to his work in the United States Air Force, Snodgrass reported that he was always around "squares" so he didn't even have the chance to try any self-described "good skunk" until he was nearly 25 years old. During his journey of nearly a decade, by the end of the '70s Snodgrass had found himself a reliable following and a full time career, though he didn't realize the immensity of his impact within the culture quite yet. He found that when you take silver or gold powder and pour it into or onto the glass while flaming it, a myriad of colors take form all over the glass of the bowl. Bob Snodgrass unofficially began a glass working renaissance in this instance and never looked back. 

The question lingers, though: why do we have to call these bad boys water pipes instead of water bongs, bongs, or any variation of the term? Well, legislation in the United States is fickle regarding different smoking devices that they offer, especially when the boundary crosses in and around tobacco policy. Historically, tobacco smokers didn’t care to be confused or lumped together with marijuana smokers because of social perceptions that regarded marijuana smokers as delinquent, lazy, or otherwise criminals in general. From the initial introduction of the water bong into United States culture, the social perception of marijuana was much more conservative and restrictive than it is today, but this didn’t stop the formation of “bong and pipe shops”, which quickly populated the entirety of the country. To simplify this a little bit, the difference between water pipes and water bongs is that water bongs are used to smoke drugs out of while water pipes are used for tobacco. Obviously, here at Cloud 9 we only sell water pipes because our pipes are only for smoking tobacco out of. 

During this time (1960s-80s), new legislation was produced across the country and in the state of Georgia that was left intentionally and potentially unconstitutionally vague. These laws prohibited pipes or roach clips displayed with literature “encouraging drug use” and distanced “white” rolling papers not specifically designed for cannabis consumption. Of course, this was nearly 40 years ago now and the legislation hasn’t really changed, though the interpretation of it is much looser than it was in the past. Although this is the case today, especially with the recent decriminalization in the state of Georgia and federal legalization looming, the language and context in smoke shops still has to tip-toe around the word bong, water bong, or any of its subsidiaries. Water bongs and water pipes are essentially the same, the difference lies in the intended use of the product by the seller, shop, or individual. When the legislation was initially written and passed in the late 70s and early 80s, smoke shops could no longer sell water bongs as water bongs, they had to be explicitly intended for use with tobacco and tobacco products. This is the reason that many head shops stash water bongs behind beads or dancing bears. Another layer to this is that different cities enforce these laws in different ways, so it’s incredibly inconsistent. Some city law enforcement still utilize intricacies like hiding water bongs in the back of the shop to confiscate products and state that their use is of illicit intent, though most bigger cities have moved passed such McCarthyist tactics to actually enforce laws that carry reasonable relative weight. 

“The map of the United States is colorful as to where you can lawfully buy paraphernalia and not use magic code words,” said Allen St. Pierre, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. And this is not unheard of, in fact it’s actually common practice. In many places the clerks at headshots, usually proudly posting pictures of Grateful Dead Iconography, are directed to refuse a sale even at the mention of marijuana. This leaves a mess for newcomers in the smoking world because they may simply be seeking advice on how to properly consume their product, but with marijuana still considered a schedule 1 narcotic, clerks or sales people aren’t allowed to give direction even if it may be a harm reduction tactic. 

A prime example of this is the 2003 DEA sting called Operation Pipe Dreams, which ensnared 55 people for distributing drug paraphernalia, including actor Tommy Chong, one half of the stoner comedy duo Cheech and Chong. He pleaded guilty and served nine months in prison for selling the “Chong Bong,” which was delivered to an undercover business in the Pittsburgh area. Seems a little ridiculous, no? But this is what lawmakers allow tax dollars to be spent on, the evil that is plaguing the youth, the “Chong Bong”. Though, since that last DEA raid there hasn’t been much to follow, as public opinion has shifted around marijuana. The eerie thing about these laws are that he federal and state governments still have the power to execute undercover tactics and prosecute people in this same way, which is why it’s desperately important for smoke shops and their customers to adhere to these laws so that neither side is disgruntled or charged in a legal manner. 

In the state of Georgia, the term water bong or simply bong is defined by the state’s paraphernalia laws, by which they define drug paraphernalia as anything that can be used as a substance to ingest drugs. The vagueness here is intentional so that anything you‘ve fashioned into paraphernalia actually constitutes a charge. As you can see, tokers and water bong enthusiasts have been persecuted for decades and at least for little longer probably will be, so when you’re in a shop make sure you’re using the correct terminology to ask for water PIPES instead of water BONGS because they are in fact different. Bongs are meant for drugs and water pipes are meant for tobacco, which is what we sell. 

Below is a list of our favorite water pipes here at Cloud 9 Smoke & Vape Co. 

The Hemp Leaf Beaker Water Pipe 

The Hemp Leaf Beaker Water Pipe is a beautiful and effective water pipe that features a beaker bottom and hemp leaf designs that pattern the pipe and glow in the dark! This is the selling point here, as these pipes can quickly become the life of the party with the glow in the dark feature. The shape and delivery of this water pipe is simple, though it is effective and efficient. The beaker bottom in this piece allows for smoke to culminate and build into a smokey mass so you can rail that bad boy into your lungs and take off all the way to Cloud 9. Although it doesn’t offer any sort of percolator system, this straight tube water pipe definitely packs a huge punch. An advantage to the lack of percolators is great for those that don’t enjoy cleaning their pipes, as it leaves much less residue. This is a pipe we highly recommend here at Cloud 9. 

The MOB 14in 9mm Rainbow Beaker 

The MOB 14in Rainbow Beaker is a classic build that echoes many of the features as the glow in the dark beaker mentioned above. This water pipe is a great starter pipe or an old reliable pipe for the living room table. This is due to its simple functionality high level of effectiveness when it comes to roasting your favorite product. This beaker water pipe features 9 mil thickness so even if you drop this bad boy on a soft surface it’s most likely going to be alright. The flare lip on the straight pipe portion is a great grip point as well as a stylish feat that allows your water pipe to stand out amongst the others in both performance and appearance. 

Finally, we just want to drop in another reminder to please avoid the term water bongs, bongs, or any of its variants because we don’t sell bongs in any of the Cloud 9 locations. We sell art pieces or water pipes, but we absolutely do not sell bongs at all.