What’s The Difference Between A Smoke Shop and A Head Shop?

What’s The Difference Between A Smoke Shop and A Head Shop?

You’ve probably heard the terms “smoke shop” and “head shop” used interchangeably. Now, English is an amorphous, living language, so new words are created (yeet) all the time, and meanings can change over time. Want to blow your mind? Listen to Chaucer read in the original dialect here. Just imagine what the English language will sound like in 100 years — if we’re not all communicating by emoji, at least. Anyway, let’s take a look at these terms, and why a smoke shop isn’t necessarily a head shop.

What is a head shop?

The term “head shop” is derived from a derogatory term for addicts. Even in the 1980’s you might have heard someone called a basehead, or crackhead. In the earliest days of the 20th century, the term was used for booze and opium, so you’d hear someone called an opiumhead and knew they were an addict. And of course, in the 1960’s the term “pothead” was used as a derogatory term for anyone who smoked weed. Head shops came into existence around that time, selling not just rolling papers and water pipes, but shirts, incense and other accoutrements of cannabis culture, as well as other drugs. Typically head shops weren’t where you bought drugs, just all the accessories.

What is a smoke shop?

Given the negative connotations, some smoke shops are hoping the term “head shop” goes away as legalization becomes more prevalent. But what is a smoke shop? Even before legalization, smoke shops were synonymous with tobacconists. In other words, that’s where you’d go get cigarettes and cigars, or tobacco products in general. Anything you can legally smoke, hence the title. Pretty straightforward, really. However, like head shops, smoke shops are also a place where you can buy the equipment used for smoking.

Today, we probably have outgrown the term “head shop”, and it no longer has the same negative connotations that it did a couple of decades ago. In contrast to a smoke shops, a head shop now refers to the selection of products on offer, more specifically the availability of heady glass. Heady glass is a phrase used to describe high-quality, handmade glass pieces. An important distinction between heady glass and other types of glass is that heady glass pipes are pieces of art in their own right.

About Rachel Howe

Rachel is our product review specialist. She has more than eight years experience working in smoke shops, analyzing the market and finding the most cutting-edge products.