At some point between their pass and your puff, puff, you may have stopped to wonder, Is that dude's gross spit going to get me sick? It's not exactly a common public health concern. But maybe cannabis smokers should be a tad bit more concerned about swapping germs.
"I’ve never heard of anybody specifically getting anything [from sharing a pipe]," says Jordan Tishler, MD, a medical cannabis expert at InhaleMD. But that doesn't mean it's not possible. "[Sharing a pipe] is about as sanitary as kissing somebody standing next to you," he says. "So if you would think that was icky, you probably shouldn’t do it."
It all comes down to the saliva, which is an excellent substance for transferring certain germs. "You're sharing saliva with someone you don't know very well," Dr. Tishler explains. "So you're at risk for getting colds, herpes, and all those sorts of things." That also includes mono (the "kissing disease") and the flu.
So what can you do about it? Probably the easiest (and most obvious) answer is to simply wipe off the mouthpiece with your shirt before taking your hit. It won't eliminate the bacteria completely, but it'll significantly reduce the amount that you're encountering. "If you wanted to be slightly more effective," Dr. Tishler says, "you can, at your local drug store, get alcohol prep pads." These are little wipes containing isopropyl alcohol that will kill germs. There are also cleaning wipes made specifically for cannabis consumers.
However, there's not too much you can do if you're working with a joint. It might be hard to smoosh saliva off and a wipe won't do much on a paper surface. Plus, you don't want that alcohol anywhere near your heat. If you're down to the roach, for instance, "you might ignite it," Dr. Tishler says. "You can see a Cheech and Chong moment evolving." So, if you're mostly consuming joints, you might want to invest in an easy-to-clean joint tip.
Of course, at this point, there's also the question of etiquette. How is your friend or fellow concertgoer going to react to you using your sleeve to wipe off their pipe or bong? Or do you really want to be the nerd who brought alcohol wipes to the circle? No judgement from us. But, ultimately, it's up to you. And if your smoking partner isn't feeling well, it may simply be best to skip out tonight.
Refinery29 in no way encourages illegal activity and would like to remind its readers that marijuana usage continues to be an offense under Federal Law, regardless of state marijuana laws.