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Bongs Have an Image Problem in Europe. Here Are 6 Ways to Fix It

In Europe there are bong countries and joint countries. While joints are the preference in places like Spain, the Netherlands, and Switzerland, consumers in Germany, Austria, Italy commonly reach for glass bongs. But despite the bong’s many desirable qualities, it’s often associated with outdated, stoner stereotypes.

Why the bad rap? It’s certainly not an equipment problem. Germany has a culture of artisan glass blowing that goes back centuries, and some of these traditional glass producers have found their niche by specializing in high-quality bongs. Smoking accessories have always been legal in the country, which has enabled the development of a high-end glass scene. By far the best known brand is RooR, but companies like Ehle, Zenit, DK-Glas, G-Spot, Magic-Glass, and Defort also produce German-made masterpieces that put cheap Asian imports to shame.

Production of high-quality glass dab rigs is still quite rare, but that’s likely to change soon.

But while the quality of bongs in Europe is good, their reputation isn’t. Smelly, unkempt water pipes have helped perpetuate the bong’s stoner image. Glass works of art worth hundreds or even thousands of dollars are widely perceived as stinking tubes full of stagnant brown water. A bong’s benefits—cooling and filtering cannabis smoke—are obscured by these negative stereotypes.

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Cannabis consumers have the power to help destigmatize the bong. Why, for example, use a piece that’s cheap and filthy? That’s like eating a fine meal off a grimy plate; no wonder some people find it disgusting. Here are six tips to help improve the bong’s public image and ensure you get the most enjoyment out of yours:

1. Don’t just change the water. Actually clean your bong.

It’s a good rule of thumb to keep your bong as clean as your eating utensils. You’d use the same mug for a second cup of coffee, but you’d likely clean it before pouring a fresh helping the next day. The same should apply to your bong. With the right equipment, cleaning a bong will take no longer than rolling a joint.

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2. Brush the screen after every hit.

If you’re using a bong with a screen, it will often become soiled after the first bowl. To avoid nuisance odors, clean the screen with a brush after each bowl. Using a wire brush while the screen is still warm—but not hot—tends to work the best.

3. Your eyes might be bigger than your lungs.

Bongs can hit you hard. Some bong fans, especially those who choose size over smoking characteristics, tend to inhale too much at once. That can result in an uncomfortable coughing fit. Start slow. The ideal size of a hit varies from person to person, but most people tend to prefer between 100 ml and several liters inhaled smoke. Keep in mind that can vary according to THC tolerance, strain potency, and numerous other factors.

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4. Avoid cheap products.

There are several good reasons to avoid cheap glass products, which are often made in China. The first is its limited durability: Low-quality glass tends to be much thinner and more fragile, meaning it’s more likely to chip or break. Second, the smoking characteristics are almost always worse than those of a high-end product. Airflow might be impeded, and poorly made parts may not fit together well.

On top of all that, purchasing a mouth-blown bong supports small, craft businesses that are helping revive and improve upon a centuries-old craft. Signs of quality are obvious: Places where different pieces of the bong fit together should be snug and secure, not moving so much as a millimeter. Air bubbles in the glass and cheap ornamentation generally indicate assembly-line production.

5. Note the location of the carb.

Bong smokers who prefer a carb hole instead of removing the entire bowl should be careful not to get bong water on their fingers—or even in their mouths—while inhaling. Generally speaking, bongs with a carb hole on the back of the piece make your fingers stink after the first hit. It’s usually better if the carb hole is located on the front or side of the bong.

6. Choose the right accessories.

Even best bong will taste bad or cause coughing fits if the airflow isn’t smooth. Poor draw can be the result of the wrong sized bowl, a bad percolator, poor cleaning, an unsuitable screen, or a carb hole in the wrong place. Read more about the anatomy of a bong and make an informed buying decision.

While production of top-notch bongs has been booming in Germany, the production of high-quality glass dab rigs is still quite rare. But with the legalization of medicinal cannabis in 2017 and the increasing use of extracts, that’s likely to change soon.