Perfume restrictions in the news

by Walter Olson on January 25, 2012

Under a bill introduced by a New Hampshire legislator, “state employees who interact with the public would not be allowed to wear perfume. Rep. Michele Peckham, R-North Hampton, is the prime sponsor of the perfume bill, which she said she put forward after a constituent asked her to do so. She said there are people allergic to fragrances. ‘It may seem silly, but it’s a health issue,’ Peckham said. ‘Many people have violent reactions to strong scents.’” [Union-Leader via Radley Balko, who calls it reductio creep] Similar proposals have surfaced in places like Portland, Ore., and “perfume sensitivity” lawsuits have been reported from Detroit and New Jersey (& welcome WSJ Law Blog readers; day’s “Five Must-Read Stories”).

{ 11 comments }

1 nevins 01.25.12 at 8:57 am

The public might not like the inevitable backlash. Since almost every hygiene product is perfumed to some degree, the wearing of deodorants will run afoul of the letter of the law as well.

2 CTrees 01.25.12 at 9:49 am

And yet, allergies generally do not qualify for accomodation under the ADA. Hrm.

3 Rliyen 01.25.12 at 10:30 am

CT,

Be thankful for that, otherwise the ADA lawsuit wave would grow to the size of Godzilla.

4 ps 01.25.12 at 12:09 pm

maybe a few hours in line at the dmv with nothing but the stench of armpit will change their minds.

5 Ashleigh 01.25.12 at 12:26 pm

As someone who has severe allergic reactions up to and including anaphylaxis, migraines and skin rashes when exposed to scented products like perfumes, colognes and air fresheners I fully support this. I’m not saying don’t wear any deodorant (though I’d rather smell someone sweaty than not be able to breathe) but many people don’t realize just how strong their perfume or cologne is. I often cannot use an elevator or a washroom because of inconsiderate people who have covered themselves in these products and even standing near someone wearing a lot of perfume or cologne for a few minutes can trigger a severe headache.

6 Ed 01.25.12 at 12:54 pm

If fragrances are that dangerous, should they not be pulled from the market?
Get rid of peanuts, shellfish, and any other allergen as well.
Everyone has the inalienable right to be sure that they will never encounter an allergen.

7 Roy B 01.25.12 at 1:56 pm

Wow, New Hampsire must be a great place to live. All one person has to do is ask their representative to put forward legislation and they do! Maybe I should move to North Hampton and contact Ms. Peckham as I have a number of items I would like her to put forward.

8 Kathleen 01.25.12 at 3:54 pm

Ditto Ashleigh!

Dissenters: would you have preferred paying my hospital bill (I was uninsured so you did)? Ever consider weighing the options of individual choice and freedom to wear perfumes versus instantaneous projectile vomiting in closed spaces?

Of course we can’t completely eliminate allergens from the public sphere but one usually has the choice and CONTROL to reduce them (in the case of foods etc). When you go out in public, you’re at the mercy of anyone within 20 feet of you.

9 DensityDuck 01.25.12 at 4:54 pm

Kathleen: Given the number of industrial cleaners, disinfectants, and air-fresheners that contain perfume, you should be unable to walk into just about any enclosed space anywhere.

*****

I do also wonder whether it’s crossed some people’s mind to sue the city they live in for not providing free closed-roof jitneys and covered walkways between every structure. Because, y’know, sunburn and skin cancer and all that.

10 ctrees 01.25.12 at 6:39 pm

@Rliyen actually, as someone with a history of anaphylaxis? You’d be surprised. My bette noir is seafood, but people eating it at my place of work can prevent me from entering parts of the building, because even the smell will start an allergic reaction. I live in the south, and have had to take time off when they’ve decided to do a big boil of local seafood behind the building- the smell wafts through the entire place, and could KILL me. I’m lucky that my job is lenient about this, but if they weren’t? I have no protections under the law, despite reasonable accommodations being very cheap, indeed.

11 D 01.25.12 at 7:03 pm

Is a law the appropriate way to handle this? Is there no other way? And that’s interesting that the NH constitution must be broad enough to grant the state power over perfume-wearing.

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