Going through Chinese TSA with a Puffco Proxy: my cautionary tale

puffco proxy

Let this be a cautionary tale. On my most recent trip to Thailand, I booked my flights with layovers in China. This is something I have done in the past, and have always been met with the utmost in customer service from both airlines and airport personnel. And this trip was no exception, so I want to emphasize that before continuing with my story and allowing for what I hope to be a learning experience for all readers who have been lucky enough not to have this happen to them.

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Thailand was holding the Full Moon Sesh in Bangkok, and I had to be a part of it. With it being a concentrate-focused event, I was in a quandary about what to bring or purchase in terms of a portable smoking device. I settled on bringing my Puffco Proxy, which, if you have not tried already, do yourself a flavor and definitely grab one as I would give them a ringing endorsement (not sponsored). However, my Puffco had been used, so I watched the video and reviewed the support page that Puffco provides regarding cleaning and then felt confident about bringing my device with me.

The thing is when you travel through China, there is a secondary bag check. Your bags don’t just automatically go through if you have a layover or are changing planes, at least when entering or exiting the country. Coming in from the US to China, I had no issues, and again will say the flights and the staff all around, top notch. In fact it was one the easiest ultra long-haul flights I have ever done. 

Lengthy dab sessions and dirty rigs

The Puffco Proxy performed flawlessly throughout my trip, often being passed around at midnight seshes and providing many first-time dabs. At the end of my trip, the rig was far from clean, and while I had thought all about cleaning and making sure everything was in top shape for the ride over, the trip back, I was much less prepared. ISO alcohol was something that I needed at the last minute, and I have to shout out The Drugstore for being the spot to hook it up, with full-on dunk rigs for customers to use on a daily basis. 

With the amount of time I had before my flight, I cleaned the Proxy as best I could, which I thought was fairly well given the circumstances. The glass was completely clean, and the chamber was as good as I could get it. Under observation, no cannabis oil was present, but as it turns out, that was only going to be half my battle.

On my way out of Thailand, I didn’t give my luggage a second thought. I had no issues traveling through on the way in, so why would I have any on the return? Arriving at my layover and grabbing my carry-on, I moved through the turnstiles and checked in without a problem, even making small talk with the two other individuals who were making the transfer to the US with me. What I didn’t know would be how valuable this initial banter would become later on. Eventually we all ended up back at what would be the Chinese version of TSA, who asked me to open my bags and sent them through a scanner.

water pipes puffco proxy
Waterpipes for sale at the airport in China Photo: Josh Freeman

When the hash hits the fan

Immediately upon exiting the scanner, the lady behind the counter reached into my bag, grabbed out the Puffco Proxy case, and unzipped it. Picking up the device and holding it in the air, everyone seemed to get quiet. 

“What is this?” She asked.

“Smoking pipe,” I responded confidently, hiding my extreme anxiety. 

“What kind of smoking pipe? For tobacco or oil?”

Without missing a beat, I said “tobacco,” hoping that would be the end of things. However, at this point, other officers have arrived and are all looking over this device in unison, taking turns inspecting it.

In an attempt to ease their concerns, I show them that the chamber can be removed from the glass. This, however, seemed to only make them more curious as now a scanner had appeared, and the barcodes and labels on the chamber were being reviewed. As this happened, the officers began questioning the other patron that was next to me, all in Chinese. This kind fellow, as they asked him a question, would turn to me and repeat the question in English and ask me before turning and responding to the officers.

Through this, I was asked if I had any tobacco for them to see, and I responded no. Next, they questioned how to use the device. So I grabbed the device back from them and mimed Popeye smoking from the pipe, but without turning the device on or opening the chamber. This display seemed to be enough for them, and what seemed to be a ranking official walked over and told me sternly, “Do not use it here and put it away now,” and motioned for me to grab my belongings and go. Which I did without hesitation or any further issues.

puffco proxy airport
My proxy after the search in the airport in China Photo: Josh Freeman

Making it out unscathed

So you may be asking yourself, what’s the cautionary tale? What were the mistakes, and what can we learn? The biggest mistake was not being better prepared for my cleaning of the Proxy prior to my return flights, which would have given me less anxiety during my interrogation. What can we learn? If you are traveling abroad, make sure to look at the laws regarding bringing vaporizer devices into the country, even if you’re only changing planes. It may be better to buy the device locally, use one at a shop, or look into an alternative method of consumption.

I will end this with what the kind gentleman who was translating the questions the officers had for me once I found him at baggage claim at our final destination. After fist-bumping and allowing me to finish thanking him, he turned to me and said, “It’s good you didn’t have any tobacco and did not turn on the device. They were waiting to see if it turned on, and they were going to detain you for further questioning and investigation.” 

This article was submitted by a guest contributor to GreenState. The author is solely responsible for the content.

Josh Freeman Josh Freeman is a seasoned professional in the world of cannabis, bringing a unique blend of financial acumen and a passion for exploration to the forefront of cannabis journalism. Based in San Diego, CA his day to day is working as a Senior Financial Analyst at a prominent Multi-State Operator (MSO), but his true love lies in discovering and sharing the incredible experiences that the cannabis plant offers. Join him on his quest to uncover the hidden gems and vibrant stories that lie within the world of cannabis, and let his passion for exploration ignite your own journey of discovery.