Banning Perfume

SayUncle notes that New Hampshire is considering a ban on perfume for public workers, using some of the same logic that proponents of smoking bans were proffering. Everyone’s ran into women who smell like they bathe in perfume, and certainly there are men who seem to shower in Aqua Velva. But it seems to me that people aren’t willing to surrender much personal discomfort for the sake of freedom. Bitter is asthmatic, and perfume is a trigger for her, but her philosophy is not to make her problem everyone else’s; there are discomforts that must be tolerated in respecting the freedom and autonomy of others. This form of extreme selfishness is the same mentality that is getting peanut butter and jelly banned from elementary schools. I’d also note that this form of selfishness is highly prevalent among our opponents as well.

17 thoughts on “Banning Perfume”

  1. I wouldn’t call it a trigger, in that I don’t start having attacks because someone next to me bathed in perfume. I just don’t tolerate strong smells very well and have trouble breathing it in which can lead to lightheadedness or passing out if it were too strong and I simply spent too long around it.

    I remember when I was in a speech class in college and drew the topic that banning smoking in buildings wasn’t enough. It was frustrating, but I went with it since the entire point to was to get us debating on any random topic. I mentioned that I had trouble in cold air, and walking through smokers outside of buildings just made it worse. The professor and his TA were both smokers who stood outside of the building where we had class for a smoke together just before it started. They asked me if it was true and to describe how it felt. I was honest and said it felt like burning in my lungs while I was already dealing with well below freezing temperatures in winter, it was a little tough if I breathed in near them. They felt absolutely terrible. They couldn’t believe I hadn’t said something and questioned if it was because I felt intimidated by their status as authority figures.

    They almost didn’t believe me when I said that I simply held my breath as I walked past them and picked either the stairs or ramp to enter the building (on opposite sides of the same door) based on the direction of the wind. It’s why I never stood outside to chat with them or said hello, merely smiled and nodded when they greeted more outside. It simply wasn’t a big deal. Because it was cold, I was usually rushing to get inside anyway, so I really didn’t care. I felt no need to lecture them or demand they stand out in the road to smoke just because it was a little easier for me to hold my breath for a couple of seconds at most.

  2. Sebastian,

    As a parent of a child with a severe peanut allergy, I really have to take issue with your statement about a certain mentality that’s getting PBJ banned from schools. Food allergies, especially peanut allergies, are extremely serious. Accidental ingestion can be fatal in a matter of minutes. Kids don’t wash their hands as much as they should, and they share food/drinks without thinking. While it’s great that they are unselfish like that, there is a very real risk that a child with an allergy can die from that type of exposure. I’ve been told of an incident where a child with a peanut allergy was bullied by other kids who would throw pebbles at him and say they were peanuts, and ultimately caused him to have a reaction when a little boy smeared peanut butter on the back of his neck. And these are issues with kids who know they have an allergy. 25% of all kids who have an anaphylactic reaction to a food have their first reaction in school, where time-buying epinephrine is not necessarily going to be available.

    I’m one of the biggest proponents of personal responsibility there is, but even I can’t expect 5 to 9 year olds to be responsible for the lives of themselves or their classmates. Adults, and even teenagers with food allergies, should be responsible enough to be in a building/room with a substance they are allergic to, but we cannot expect young children to have the same level of responsibility.

    Please feel free to contact me if you want more information about food allergies and why they are so dangerous for young children.


    1. A friend of mine growing up had a peanut allergy, severe enough to cause anaphylactic shock if he ate one. But we all had PB&J and he never had a reaction. Statistically, how many kids die in school every year because of a peanut allergy? I don’t deny that food allergies are dangerous for kids, but I think the problem is majorly overblown. Years ago it was just something that was dealt with… in that the school nurses were aware of it, and the kids were aware of it. Jason avoided eating peanuts.

      1. My son has had an anaphylactic reaction when he was 2, and he avoids peanuts as well. He has an epipen just in case an accident happens, like when his lunch was mixed up with another kid’s and he ate something with peanuts and had a reaction on the bus ride home from school.

        You say “Jason avoided eating peanuts” like it’s that simple. While strict avoidance is the only way to ensure the safety of anyone with a severe food allergy, it’s not just as simple as “avoid eating peanuts”. Was your friend 5 or 6 when he was given the responsibility of reading ingredients? Most kindergarteners and first graders can’t read, so it would be absurd to expect them to be responsible for knowing everything they are going to eat. My son knew everything in his lunch was safe the day he had his second reaction. The problem was it wasn’t his lunch that he had. He grabbed another lunchbox that looked exactly like his. It would’ve been worse if that lunch had a PBJ sandwich in it, since he wouldn’t know what peanut butter looks like outside of a jar.

        I am, by no means, suggesting that banning PBJ sandwiches from schools is the absolute best way to handle it, but after personally trying to get the school to keep his epipen readily available, especially on his bus where it is not allowed right now, I can see how some parents and schools arrive at the conclusion to just ban peanuts all together.

        To keep my son safe, we have him sit at the peanut free table at lunch (and we don’t ask that no one else in the lunchroom each peanuts, just his table), we ask that only pre-packaged items be sent in for school sponsored parties (i.e. Halloween, Christmas. We also ask that we are notified in advance about any homemade birthday treats that will be sent in, like cupcakes, so we can provide a safe alternative), and that his epipen be available at all times, just in case every other preventative measure fails.

        Given that every instance of a food allergic reaction becoming fatal is due to a delay in the administration of medication, namely epinephrine, I actually believe that epipen availability is more important than preventing everyone from bringing in peanuts to school.

        Are there people who blow it out of proportion? Absolutely. Even I get tired of the parents who say “if something even thinks of the word peanut in the same county as my kid, he’ll explode”. But food allergies are a very big deal, are on the rise, and need to be dealt with seriously.

        1. It was elementary school… but we were probably a bit older, maybe 3rd or 4th grade when I can remember being aware of it. I don’t remember him having an epipen, but I forgot that schools have gotten all zero tolerance about kids walking around with medication.

          1. In NJ, when a Dr. signs off that a child can self carry epi, there isn’t a damn thing the school can do about it. But that hasn’t happened yet. Like I said, I’m not an advocate of outright bans; I see the bigger picture.

  3. It does tend to grow. Our office asked people to be respectful. That didn’t stop the one person they were targeting. (It’s always the one bad apple theory isn’t it?) So HR spoke to her and she stopped! Then it was popcorn burning/cooking in microwave, then sauerkraut warming in microwave. OMG!! Then it was smoking out by back door, and people parking out back complained and they moved the smoking people to the loading dock It was off and running. Then after massive layoffs, all those people have left and people just complain about being to cold or hot. ROFL!! It will start back up eventually!

  4. Like Bitter, I have a sensitivity to strong artificial smells. Think perfume stores in the mall, or Bath and Body works stores. I don’t complain to the mall about the smell. I avoid walking past the store, or hold my breath as I pass.

    Some Candles, and air fresheners can cause me to have trouble breathing or give me severe headaches. My wife knows that she can have a few scents that don’t seem to bother me. Besides that she politely refuses candles as gifts.

    I would never even think to ask others to give up these things. It’s my problem, not theirs.

    1. You know it’s odd that I don’t have any issues with Bath & Body Works. I also tolerate scents for women much better than I can handle the mix of scents for men in your standard department store. The more “natural” the scent, the less likely I am to have an issue with it.

      I suspect it’s more related to not liking the smells as opposed to anything physical, but I really do hurry through some areas to avoid overbearing scents.

  5. My wife suffers neuro-shock in the presence of some perfume additives. I’d welcome a ban for certain types of work spaces. Of note is the fact that my wife works in a .gov hospital and there is a written rule about no perfumes or perfumed deodorants in the ICU due to patient reactions…yet a good portion of the nurses and some doctors blithely go on slathering scents on themselves.

    In brief: If you work in a position where banning such a thing is valid due to health concerns go for it. But banning it outright is just trying to protect the very few who have reactions to it. Breathing is a fact of life, so are women who want to be scent tracked 5 states away.

  6. First they came for Drakkar Noir,
    and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a teenager trying
    to cover up the smell of cigarette smoke.

    Then they came for the Old Spice,
    and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a octogenarian.

    Then they came for the Aqua di Gio,
    and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Persian club

    Then they came for the CK One,
    and I didn’t speak out because I was born in the 70s.

    Then they came for my soap
    and there was no one left to smell me.

  7. Sweet. Can they do the opposite as well? Like ban strong smelling people in general? We’ve all been stuck next to a person who reeks of BO … or garlic or fish or halitosis.

    I’m sure mandating showers and tooth brushing not to mention forced medication and complete gastric surgery, for those really bad cases of bad breath and sweating, is the logical way to enforce the “Protecting America from Sensory Input” legislation.

    And don’t get me started on the scents of cooking. The smell of frying fish makes me nauseous. I’ve thrown up a few times over the years. Can I say that it’s a health issue and sue my neighbors?

    Can we mandate a strictly controlled nutritional cake to be mandatory for all public eating? Something that will not smell or set of allergies? I hear Nutraloaf is pretty good.


    (full disclosure, I’m allergic to wheat and don’t wear perfumes or use lotions due to skin sensitivity.)

    1. If I could get my son’s school to put his epipen on his bus, I would be happy. I don’t advocate for banning anything, but I am a huge advocate for food allergic kids and getting proven methods of prevention/treatment in place.

      I’m OK with every kid in his school eating PB&J for lunch, even with my son there. As long as his medication is available and school personnel are trained to use it, I’m satisfied.

  8. I have a reaction to strong smells as well but have never thought about someone making it a law that others can’t wear something. I deal with the problem not expecting the government to handle it for me!

  9. I can’t imagine that schools inspect every sandwich to make sure that all traces of peanut products are kept out of the schools. It’s probably more like that “no guns” sign at the movie theater that we can all safely ignore because nobody checks.

    I would send my kid to school with an epi pen for the same reason, whether it’s against the rules or not.

  10. I have my own issues with perfume (I suspect that it causes migraines), but I’m with Bitter: you just put up with it. Having said that, I don’t mind if you ask your minister to ask your congregation to be aware of the problem, or for a company to ban something so they could employ a certain person–but to mandate it by law? Why not just ban perfumes?

    We live in a world of adults. We can work out our own problems! And our solutions work out better, because they don’t involve the heavy arm of excessive regulations!

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