Stoners are a naturally paranoid bunch, so you can imagine the stress levels coursing through the cannabis community right now.
But are hardcore smokers so freaked out about COVID-19 that they'd make a run on so-called bong condoms?
That's right—there is such a thing as a prophylactic for your water pipe, so you can protect yourself from contagion during a shared smoking session. They're not easy to find: Of the 14 dispensaries I called, only Head East, a nearly 50-year-old head shop on Southeast Division Street, confirmed it not only knew what bong condoms were but had some in stock.
"Are you looking for the kind of bong condom that protects your bong from bumping up against things or the kind that protects the mouthpiece from germs?" the budtender asked when I arrived.
"Germs, please," I responded.
The clerk led me to a dusty basket of small plastic cases on the far end of the counter. Each had an $8 price tag and contained a neatly folded, silicone funnel.
When unfolded, the cover, made by the California-based brand Badabeez, resembles an oversized baby-bottle nipple with the tip cut off. The cover is placed, narrow end first, in the mouthpiece of the bong, then the trumpeting upper half is folded over the rim. It fits an average-sized water pipe but is too large for the narrower mouthpieces of oil rigs or bubblers.
Before we get too ahead of ourselves, bong condoms will not protect you from the coronavirus. My partner and I share a bong, and if one of us were sick, for any reason, we would knock that shit off immediately. Condom or nah, using a bong in rotation with someone contagious enough to require protection in the first place is just straight-up inadvisable.
Also, neither of us can imagine being ill and choosing bong rips over all the edibles, tinctures, and extracts in our medicine cabinet, pantry and stash box.
Bongs between couples are one thing, but if you're smoking with a crew, there is a universal baseline expectation of general health. Stoners already know better than to pass a bong from mouth to mouth when there is even a suggestion of sickness in the circle. So the condom hit a sour note with my squad right off the bat.
When I showed it to them, their immediate responses included: "You don't need a bong condom, you need to stay home." "It smells like a fresh dildo." "It looks like an engorged nipple." "It seems vaginal. Is it repurposed from something vaginally adjacent?" "If this is about cold sores, thank you for trying to protect me from you, but we really don't need to share."
On the lips, the bong condom lives up to its name—it tastes like a Trojan fresh out of somebody's back pocket. Its rubbery essence becomes part of the whole sensory experience.
We ultimately decided that stoner etiquette—and common sense—dictates we not share tools when a communicable illness is in play. There's simply no way to share a bong without sharing some measure of contact between parties. Sometimes we drool in them or cough on them. Even with the area of oral contact shielded, bongs are still passed hand to hand. For a devoted germophobe, it's far more reasonable to carry a personal pipe than to pull out a bong condom every time someone packs a communal bowl.
At best, a bong condom is a tool for superficial comfort. At worst, it's a silicone novelty masquerading as a medical safety device. Your stoner survival kit doesn't need bong condoms—just keep the pipe to your own damn self.
BUY IT: Head East, 13250 SE Division St., 503-761-3777. 10 am-10 pm Monday-Saturday, 10 am-9 pm Sunday.