Should you smoke weed out of an aluminium can?
Caught short and really want to take a big hit? You might be tempted to use an aluminium can. However, there are some potential health risks associated with this method. Here we give you some less damaging options for creating a DIY bong or pipe.
Sometimes, we’ve got weed and a lighter, but not much else. Otherwise, maybe we have the equipment needed to smoke a joint, but fancy indulging in something a little more mind-bending like a bong or pipe.
If you don’t have these things to hand, what can be done? An easy and old-school method is to poke holes in an aluminium can and convert it into a pipe. However, this may not be the healthiest option available. Here we look at the risks of smoking through aluminium, and investigate some similar ad hoc alternatives for making bongs and pipes.
The Health Risks Of Aluminium
There are some health risks to aluminium exposure. However, the severity of these effects depends on a number of factors, including duration of exposure, dose, personal traits, and much more.
The US Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry clearly entails some of the health effects of exposure to aluminium.¹ When inhaled as dust particles, aluminium can cause respiratory problems and may affect the nervous system. Oral consumption of aluminium, however, is usually not harmful. While some studies previously suggested that aluminium exposure could be linked to Alzheimer’s disease, other studies argue that this may not actually be true.
Some people with kidney disease may store more aluminium in their bodies, which in turn may cause the development of bone and/or brain diseases.
How Does Smoking Weed Out Of An Aluminium Can Affect Your Health?
The answer to this question depends on whom you ask. Some articles claim that smoking out of an aluminium can has a vast array of health effects.
For example, the inner lining of aluminium cans is made of polymer, which is basically a blend of a variety of plastics, potentially containing a cocktail of toxic chemicals including BPA, which is known to cause cancer.² The paint on the outside of most aluminium cans is either thermoplastic or thermoset, both of which contain plastic compounds. Again, some people are worried about heating these paints and exposing themselves to the toxic compounds in this paint.
In a column featured in the Wesleyan Argus, a weekly student newspaper from Wesleyan University in Middletown, a professor argues that smoking from aluminium shouldn’t produce any noticeable health effects³:
“Aluminium is a fairly reactive metal and on exposure to the atmosphere it quickly forms a surface layer of aluminium oxide, which protects the underlying metal from further reaction. Any aluminium that winds up in the smoke would be in the form of this oxide”, writes the author of the article.
While there is little scientific data on the toxicity of aluminium oxide, the author of the article assumes it's about as toxic as smoking other kinds of fine particles. In fact, you probably expose yourself to more aluminium through your daily habits of using deodorant, cooking with foil, or eating/drinking canned products than through smoking from a can every once in a while.
Can smoking from an aluminium can cause alzheimer’s disease?
The short answer is “probably not”. In the 60s and 70s, a variety of medical papers suggested that exposure to aluminium could increase one’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.⁴ If you know anyone who grew up in this era, this is why they are so anti-aluminium (from can pipes all the way through to regular cooking foil).
These theories were based on the fact that aluminium can cause neurofibrillary degeneration, and neuronal degeneration is the main symptom of Alzheimer’s disease. However, reputable sources—such as the Alzheimer’s Association—clearly state that recent research doesn't support these findings.⁵
Alternatives To Smoking Weed Out Of A Can
When it comes to makeshift alternatives to a bong or pipe, there are clearly options that are more suitable than a can. Below, we offer two alternatives, which are likely to be even cheaper than a can, and which will be a little kinder to your health!
How to make an apple pipe
The legendary apple pipe! Alongside being a staple of stoner culture, it’s also a handy technique to learn when you’re in a bongless fix. Requiring almost no time, and very little in the way of equipment, you’ll be taking apple-flavoured hits in no time with this method.
- An apple—any variety will do, though if you’re being really decadent, pick one with a flavour you like
- Screwdriver or chopstick
- Remove the stem from the top of the apple; this area will form the bowl.
- Poke a hole horizontally through the whole apple using a screwdriver or chopstick. One end will be the mouthpiece, the other the carb hole.
- Using the toothpick, poke several holes close together in the dip at the top of the apple. Make sure they reach down to the horizontal hole, as the smoke will travel through these smaller holes and into the main channel.
- Now you’re done! Test the airflow first. If it’s all good, you’re ready to pack it with bud and get smoking.
How to make a bottle bong
Bottle bongs come in many forms, and can, if made well, function as an actual bong. Some methods use a proper downstem, or indeed use rolled up aluminium (we don’t advise it!). However, here we give you a method that only requires a bottle and a pen to use, as it’s the most accessible when you don’t have access to smoking equipment.
- Plastic bottle: 0.5–1 litre is best; any bigger and the act of drawing air through becomes a chore
- Pre-rolled joint
- Using a screwdriver or cigarette, pierce or burn a hole around halfway to three quarters of the way up the bottle.
- Burn another on the side as the carb hole.
- Place the empty body of a pen through the first hole.
- Fill with water about a quarter to a third of the way up.
- Put a joint in the pen, and take hits as though it were a bong.
Smoking Weed Out Of A Can: Yes Or No?
Just to be on the safe side, we’d say you shouldn’t smoke out of a can. Of course, if you’re desperate and you really want to, then it can be done—though we’d say it’s best to just hold off smoking until you can use a less damaging alternative.
Perhaps just stick to joints until you can use another, better method. Taking hits from a bong will be no fun if you’re then paranoid that you might have poisoned yourself. If you’re really worried about your health in general, your best bet is to avoid smoking altogether, regardless of whether it is a bong, blunt, joint, cigarette, or from an aluminium can. If you want to continue using cannabis but are concerned about the health effects of smoking, we suggest investing in a high-quality vaporizer. As more money gets pumped into the cannabis industry, we can expect to see a price decrease in more advanced equipment like portable vapes, which are the best solution for any health-conscious cannabis user.
1. US Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, Public Health Statement for Aluminum, retrieved April-07-2022 https://wwwn.cdc.gov/TSP/PHS/PHSLanding.aspx
2. NCBI, Bisphenol A induces gene expression changes and proliferative effects through GPER in breast cancer cells and cancer-associated fibroblasts., retrieved April-07-2022 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22552965/
3. The Wesleyan Argus, Ask a Professor: Do aluminium foil bongs cause Alzheimer’s?, retrieved April-07-2022 http://wesleyanargus.com/2007/10/02/ask-a-professor-do-aluminium-foil-bongs-cause-alzheimer%E2%80%99s/
4. Science, Brain Aluminum Distribution in Alzheimers Disease and Experimental Neurofibrillary Degeneration, retrieved April-07-2022 https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/science.180.4085.511
5. Alzheimer's Association, Myths, retrieved April-07-2022 https://www.alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/what-is-alzheimers/myths