What is a smoke shop and what to expect?

Posted by Thomas Young on

Brief History of a Smoke Shop / Head Shop: 

A smoke shop, or also commonly known as a head shop, is a store that specializes in the sale of products used for the consumption of tobacco. Additionally, in states where marijuana is legal, smoke shops sell products which are used for the consumption of marijuana. Some of these products include bongs, water pipes, dab rigs, hand pipes, and various accessories. These products are used to enhance the overall smoking experience, generally cooling the smoke or filtering to make it more enjoyable for inhalation. 

The original head shops / smoke shops started popping up throughout the United States in the mid to late 60s. These stores quickly rose in popularity with the hippie cultures that emerged during the 60s-70s. During those times, the store were more open and you could have free conversations about what you were looking for. During the 90s and 2000s there was widespread pursection of people running these stores as marijuana is illegal on a federal level and several owners had stores shut down, were charged enormous fines, and some even jailed. Operation Pipe Dreams in 2003 was the biggest example of the government war on Head Shops.

What You Can and Can't Say:

Unless you're in a state where marijuana is legal, smoke shops only sell products used for tobacco smoking. Any use of terms that may lead an employee to think would likely result in you getting kicked out. If you're in a state where marijuana is legal, then that smoke / head shop most likely sells products used to smoke weed or tobacco. At these shops you can freely ask whatever questions you want. Staff tend to be enthusiasts with tons of recommendations and knowledge. 

Do Your Research Before You Go:

You don't need to know exactly what you want to buy before you get there, but you should have an idea of what you are looking for. Some of the things to consider are:

  • How much are you looking to spend?

    • Prices on items can range from as cheap as five dollars to expensive as hundreds to thousands of dollars. Knowing how much you can and want to spend will allow you to narrow down your choices to what's in your price range. 

  • Do you want American made or China / India made?

    • American made bongs tend to be a much higher quality in both glass and craftmanship; however, this comes at a slightly higher average price. China / India made pieces are much cheaper, but tend to be a worse quality and break much easier. 

  • How do you smoke?

    • Do you smoke on the go, then maybe something small and portable makes sense? Do you have a set up at home, then a nice sturdy stand alone pipe is great? Do you always smoke with friends, then maybe something that's nice to share!

  • Do you want a scientific pipe or a heady pipe?

    • Scientific pipes tend to be sleekly designed pipes which are made to enhance efficiencies. Heady pipes tend to have a cool artsy twist to them while also being very functional. 

  • Does a brand name make sense?

    • Brand names come at a higher cost; however, they come with a reputation and it's easy enough to find reviews online these days!

  • Do you want a percolator?

    • Most pipes these days come with percolators which filter and cool the smoke. This process makes the smoking experience much more enjoyable and it stops the smoke from being harsh. 

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