Reductio Creep

Friday, January 20th, 2012

Back when the smoking bans were spreading across the country, those of us opposed to them made the point that you could make many of the same arguments about perfume and cologne that ban proponents were making about second hand smoke. (And there’s about as much evidence that fragrances are a health risk, which is to say very little.)

But you can’t really make a reductio argument for too long before someone embraces it.

Many women love wearing perfume, but have you ever gotten a headache from someone who has sprayed on way too much of a scent you don’t like? Back in 2008, Susan McBride, sued Detroit under the Americans with Disabilities Act, claiming a co-worker’s fragrance made it hard for her to breathe and do her job. She was eventually awarded $100,000, and the city warned workers to avoid using scented products like perfume, cologne, deodorant, lotion, and aftershave. Now New Hampshire is looking to do the same.

State representative Michele Peckham is sponsoring House Bill 1444 which hopes to ban state employees who work with the public from wearing perfume. Apparently a constituent with extreme allergies approached Peckham with the proposal. “It may seem silly, but it’s a health issue,” Peckham told the Union Leader. “Many people have violent reactions to strong scents.”

The author then poses an honest question that puts this nonsense into the proper perspective:

Allergies and annoyances aside, should the government be able to regulate what we smell like?

The bans at the moment are just for state employees. But that’s merely where these ideas start. Just to hammer the point home, this, from  a tweet from Stacy Malkan, head of an organization called the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics.

Fragrance is the new secondhand smoke.

Of course, body odor is fairly offensive to the senses as well. Don’t we deserve protection from that? Clearly the proper balance here is for the federal government to require regular showers and the application of deodorant, but ban all but the unscented varieties. All of this would be proper under the authority  of the Commerce Clause, of course.


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72 Responses to “Reductio Creep”

  1. #1 |  (B)oscoH | 

    Seriously folks, this is the result of the de facto criminalization of bullying. Back in the day, if someone smelled like a fenced in steer in a whorehouse, it was perfectly OK to tell them, “you smell like a fenced in steer in a whorehouse”. Presumably, they might use such feedback to adjust their scent, even/especially if hearing that feedback caused them embarrassment or discomfort. But now, we are so concerned with their feelings that we wouldn’t dare say anything. So we need laws to take care of these things.

  2. #2 |  Jim Bialik | 

    Yes, I’m sure the area of smell regulation is ripe for judicial inquiry, because when the courts get involved, we always have a fair outcome: http://lawblog.legalmatch.com/2012/01/16/supreme-court-pro-corporation-decisions-enforcing-arbitration-clauses/

  3. #3 |  nospam | 

    One of the many reasons why I’m starting to look forward to the now mathematically certain financial collapse. Why? Because people who are worried about staying warm and how they are going to eat don’t spend a lot of energy trying to tell people where they can smoke and how much perfume I can wear. Curses of an affluent society that are soon to be lifted.

    Personally, I hate the old broads who take a bath in a vat of Taboo before coming into work, but I’m not cheering to have the people with guns who are allowed to kill you if you resist sufficiently fix that issue. Big bunch of fucking pussies americans have become.

  4. #4 |  PermaLurker | 

    I am one of the tiny tiny minority who is fatally allergic to certain perfume ingredients, however I do not wish any bans to be enacted. Why? Because I am also fatally allergic to bees. Should bees also be banned? I use the exact same coping mechanisms for both problems. I carry my epi pen all the time and I avoid situations likely to put me in contact with the offending allergens. It means I don’t take elevators, I don’t use public transport and I have run (not walked) out of restaurants, bars and workplaces where someone was wearing one of the baddies. It’s not that hard to explain after the fact and no one has ever been dick enough to refuse to change perfumes when I explained the situation to them. Law is the WRONG tool for this problem. It’s MY problem and I’m the only one who needs to worry about it and I’m the only one who needs to modify my behaviour.

  5. #5 |  Jay | 

    It makes more sense to have people remove themselves from your (hypothetical) restaurant if they want to smoke as you would get much more business; going outside is much less an inconvenience for smokers than having to avoid the restaurant altogether is for those unable to endure second-hand smoke. However, I think the owners of the restaurant need to be able to make these decisions for themselves. They will either handicap their ability to make profit, and thus have to close their business (or change), or they will strike on some innovation that no one considered before. Either way, society wins.

  6. #6 |  Zeph | 

    I am hearing a “whoosh” problem, here. Are y’all completely lacking in a sense of humor? Obvious trolls are obvious, and crzyb0b is barely funny, but that’s no excuse to take him seriously.

  7. #7 |  AnonymousCoward | 

    Live free or die smelly.

  8. #8 |  Corkscrew | 

    I have talked to scientists who only marginally agree (at best) that second-hand smoke is a health risk, but that won’t be quoted publicly because of the immediate attacks that would follow.

    How many of those scientists are actually in a related field? I recall arguing with creationists who claimed the same thing, and then it turned out that all their scientists were actually engineers or meteorologists.

    My understanding is that almost all medical studies on the subject have shown passive smoking to significantly increase morbidity/mortality, and most of the remaining studies were heavily funded by the tobacco industry. It’s as close to proven as anything else in healthcare.

    Libertarians have a reputation for being anti-science. Where we see scientific research being used as an excuse for more intrusive regulation, we sometimes attack the research without stopping to check whether it might be correct. As a result, we have ended up with a large denialist contingent.

    IMO we’re no worse on average than any other political group (for example in the UK it tends to be the lefties who are anti-vaccine). But it’d be nice if I could be as proud of our movement for accepting good science as I am of it for calling out unscientific practices on the part of e.g. law enforcement.

  9. #9 |  Sebastian H | 

    My sister’s son is deathly deathly allergic to shellfish. If his meal was cooked in the same pan, he could die. He doesn’t try to ban shellfish. That would be absurd. He tells the cook that he unfortunately needs another pan, and he carries his epi pen with him everywhere. That is how normal people deal with a serious but statistically rare health issue.

    “My understanding is that almost all medical studies on the subject have shown passive smoking to significantly increase morbidity/mortality, and most of the remaining studies were heavily funded by the tobacco industry.”

    Your understanding is right or wrong depending on the level of generality you apply to ‘passive’ and ‘significantly’.

    Second hand smoke is only statistically significant for enclosed spaces with lots of smokers and a lack of pumped in fresh air–pretty much only airplanes when smoking was allowed and only for the flight attendants who had to deal with it full time, not the customers. Smoking in a bar with normal ventilation for example does not cause an increased risk. Walking by a person who is smoking in Central Park does not cause an increased risk. Your body is designed to deal with the fact that pure air is rarely available.

    So…… for about 90% of the situations where people want to complain about second hand smoke, it isn’t actually a serious health concern.

    (I don’t smoke, but I do know science).
    So yes, second hand smoke can be dangerous

  10. #10 |  harleyrider1778 | 

    They have created a fear that is based on nothing’’
    World-renowned pulmonologist, president of the prestigious Research Institute Necker for the last decade, Professor Philippe Even, now retired, tells us that he’s convinced of the absence of harm from passive smoking. A shocking interview.

    What do the studies on passive smoking tell us?

    PHILIPPE EVEN. There are about a hundred studies on the issue. First surprise: 40% of them claim a total absence of harmful effects of passive smoking on health. The remaining 60% estimate that the cancer risk is multiplied by 0.02 for the most optimistic and by 0.15 for the more pessimistic … compared to a risk multiplied by 10 or 20 for active smoking! It is therefore negligible. Clearly, the harm is either nonexistent, or it is extremely low.

    It is an indisputable scientific fact. Anti-tobacco associations report 3 000-6 000 deaths per year in France …

    I am curious to know their sources. No study has ever produced such a result.

    Many experts argue that passive smoking is also responsible for cardiovascular disease and other asthma attacks. Not you?

    They don’t base it on any solid scientific evidence. Take the case of cardiovascular diseases: the four main causes are obesity, high cholesterol, hypertension and diabetes. To determine whether passive smoking is an aggravating factor, there should be a study on people who have none of these four symptoms. But this was never done. Regarding chronic bronchitis, although the role of active smoking is undeniable, that of passive smoking is yet to be proven. For asthma, it is indeed a contributing factor … but not greater than pollen!

    The purpose of the ban on smoking in public places, however, was to protect non-smokers. It was thus based on nothing?

    Absolutely nothing! The psychosis began with the publication of a report by the IARC, International Agency for Research on Cancer, which depends on the WHO (Editor’s note: World Health Organization). The report released in 2002 says it is now proven that passive smoking carries serious health risks, but without showing the evidence. Where are the data? What was the methodology? It’s everything but a scientific approach. It was creating fear that is not based on anything.

    Why would anti-tobacco organizations wave a threat that does not exist?

    The anti-smoking campaigns and higher cigarette prices having failed, they had to find a new way to lower the number of smokers. By waving the threat of passive smoking, they found a tool that really works: social pressure. In good faith, non-smokers felt in danger and started to stand up against smokers. As a result, passive smoking has become a public health problem, paving the way for the Evin Law and the decree banning smoking in public places. The cause may be good, but I do not think it is good to legislate on a lie. And the worst part is that it does not work: since the entry into force of the decree, cigarette sales are rising again.

    Why not speak up earlier?

    As a civil servant, dean of the largest medical faculty in France, I was held to confidentiality. If I had deviated from official positions, I would have had to pay the consequences. Today, I am a free man.

    Le Parisien

    Field studies of environmental tobacco smoke indicate that under normal conditions, the components in tobacco smoke are diluted below existing Permissible Exposure Levels (PELS.) as referenced in the Air Contaminant Standard (29 CFR 1910.1000)…It would be very rare to find a workplace with so much smoking that any individual PEL would be exceeded.” -Letter From Greg Watchman, Acting Sec’y, OSHA

  11. #11 |  harleyrider1778 | 

    Yet a simple look at the chemistry shows us that its:

    About 90% of secondary smoke is composed of water vapor and ordinary air with a minor amount of carbon dioxide. The volume of water vapor of second hand smoke becomes even larger as it qickly disperses into the air,depending upon the humidity factors within a set location indoors or outdoors. Exhaled smoke from a smoker will provide 20% more water vapor to the smoke as it exists the smokers mouth.

    4 % is carbon monoxide.

    6 % is those supposed 4,000 chemicals to be found in tobacco smoke. Unfortunatley for the smoke free advocates these supposed chemicals are more theorized than actually found.What is found is so small to even call them threats to humans is beyond belief.Nanograms,picograms and femptograms……
    (1989 Report of the Surgeon General p. 80).

  12. #12 |  harleyrider1778 | 

    Yes…the 1992/93 EPA report on second hand smoke was thrown out by a judge for fudging the numbers. Essentially, the standard for scientific significance which demonstrates if a variable has an effect at all was lowered. But the judge’s ruling doesn’t stop the anti-smoking advocates from citing bad science.

    Here’s some other findings that have been taken so far out of context it defies the imagination:

    2006 Surgeon General’s Report (excerpts)

    The evidence is inadequate to infer the presence or absence of a causal relationship between maternal exposure to secondhand smoke and female fertility or fecundability. No data were found on paternal exposure to secondhand smoke and male fertility or fecundability.

    The evidence is inadequate to infer the presence or absence of a causal relationship between maternal exposure to secondhand smoke during pregnancy and spontaneous abortion.

    The evidence is inadequate to infer the presence or absence of a causal relationship between exposure to secondhand smoke and neonatal mortality.

    The evidence is inadequate to infer the presence or absence of a causal relationship between exposure to secondhand smoke and cognitive functioning among children.

    The evidence is inadequate to infer the presence or absence of a causal relationship between exposure to secondhand smoke and behavioral problems among children.

    The evidence is inadequate to infer the presence or absence of a causal relationship between exposure to secondhand smoke and children’s height/growth.

    The evidence is inadequate to infer the presence or absence of a causal relationship between maternal exposure to secondhand smoke during pregnancy and childhood cancer.

    The evidence is inadequate to infer the presence or absence of a causal relationship between exposure to secondhand smoke during infancy and childhood cancer

    The evidence is suggestive but not sufficient to infer a causal relationship between parental smoking and the natural history of middle ear effusion.

    The evidence is inadequate to infer the presence or absence of a causal relationship between parental smoking and an increase in the risk of adenoidectomy or tonsillectomy among children.

    The evidence is suggestive but not sufficient to infer a causal relationship between secondhand smoke exposure from parental smoking and the onset of childhood asthma.

    The evidence is inadequate to infer the presence or absence of a causal relationship between parental smoking and the risk of immunoglobulin E-mediated allergy in their children.

    The evidence is suggestive but not sufficient to infer a causal relationship between exposure to secondhand smoke and an increased risk of stroke.

    Studies of secondhand smoke and subclinical vascular disease, particularly carotid arterial wall thickening, are suggestive but not sufficient to infer a causal relationship between exposure to secondhand smoke and atherosclerosis.

    The evidence is suggestive but not sufficient to infer a causal relationship between secondhand smoke exposure and acute respiratory symptoms including cough, wheeze, chest tightness, and difficulty breathing among persons with asthma.

    The evidence is suggestive but not sufficient to infer a causal relationship between secondhand smoke exposure and acute respiratory symptoms including cough, wheeze, chest tightness, and difficulty breathing among healthy persons.

    The evidence is suggestive but not sufficient to infer a causal relationship between secondhand smoke exposure and chronic respiratory symptoms.

    The evidence is suggestive but not sufficient to infer a causal relationship between short-term secondhand smoke exposure and an acute decline in lung function in persons with asthma.

    The evidence is inadequate to infer the presence or absence of a causal relationship between short-term secondhand smoke exposure and an acute decline in lung function in healthy persons.

    The evidence is suggestive but not sufficient to infer a causal relationship between secondhand smoke exposure and a worsening of asthma control.

    The evidence is suggestive but not sufficient to infer a causal relationship between secondhand smoke exposure and risk for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

    And finally…..

    The evidence is sufficient to infer a causal relationship between secondhand smoke exposure and odor annoyance.

    Source: http://www.surgeongeneral.gov/library….

    If you actually read the surgeon generals report it used mostly “The evidence is suggestive but not sufficient to infer a causal relationship” and even then if you read page 21 they admit that the use of meta-analysis on observational studies is not a widely accepted and controversial practice and yet they do it anyway.

    http://www.surgeongeneral.gov/library….

  13. #13 |  derfel cadarn | 

    Do you know what is funny? I tend to have severe reactions to shallow useless self serving busybody politicians. I have found from recent research that this condition is spreading rapidly through the population. Perhaps we can use this situation to ban these busybodies from holding office. Isn’t that a happy thought.

  14. #14 |  First they came for the smokers . . . . Perfume the New second hand smoke? : Deadline Live With Jack Blood | 

    […] own, but the State should have no role in this whats-so-ever!Here come the Perfume Police… Reductio CreepFriday, January 20th, 2012 Back when the smoking bans were spreading across the country, those of us […]

  15. #15 |  crzyb0b | 

    “crzyb0b – Radley already said it, but it bears repeating. If it were the case that a child in my son’s class had a peanut allergy, and it were severe enough that my son’s eating a peanut butter sandwich in the same room as him would cause him to get ill, that would be one thing.

    But that is not the case. The entire school district has banned peanut products anywhere in their schools. Rather than even attempt to accomodate a specific need, they basically decided to bubble wrap the entire school district, just in case.”

    Let’s not deal in hypotheticals. Let’s take a real situation. A 7 yo child has a condition (this is real) that the exposure to a small amount of peanut butter can result in a potentially fatal allergic reaction. The fatal reaction can be treated with an epi-pen used in time to make it non fatal – if the child can receive the treatment within a very few minutes. The exposure can be small: for example if a smear of peanut butter is left on the table and an amount too small to see is transferred to the child’s hand and then to his mouth the reaction could occur. Further the child might leave the cafeteria and go to the bathroom in the time between the exposure and the reaction – and thus be alone and incapacitated.

    Would that situation not warrant a ban on peanut butter in the school? Or should the child just stay home?

  16. #16 |  crzyb0b | 

    Now let’s consider a hypothetical: Let’s say the scent you have chosen creates a significant but non fatal reaction in some percentage of those exposed to it: At what level of reaction should the substance be banned:
    1 in one million, 1 in 1000, 1 in 100, 1 in 50, 1 in 10, 1 in 2? (i.e. 1 in every 2 people exposed have the reaction).

    Now, same question, but what if the reaction is fatal?

    Corollary: If the substance in question isn’t banned, is fatal at the 1:1M level, should you be personally responsible for (i.e. pay damages) any deaths that result?

  17. #17 |  Radley Balko | 

    “Would that situation not warrant a ban on peanut butter in the school? Or should the child just stay home?”

    I think it would warrant the school taking extra precautions to protect the child. You make the entire staff aware of the allergy. Probably his classmates, too, so they don’t expose him to nuts in lunches they might bring to school. You educate teachers and lunchroom staff on how to use an Epi pen. You make sure his lunch spot is thoroughly cleaned every day.

    But no, I don’t think you ban everything containing nuts on the entire campus because of one student’s allergy. Severe childhood allergies are becoming increasingly common. We’re going to have to learn how deal with them. I don’t think simply banning the allergens is going to be a viable solution.

  18. #18 |  crzyb0b | 

    “I don’t think simply banning the allergens is going to be a viable solution.”

    Why not? Banning peanuts from schools has been demonstrated to a) protect the child in question, and b) not be so onerous that other families couldn’t comply. I.e. – its a perfectly viable solution in this case. Sure some parents grumble, but really is it a life changing event?

    So in this case its pretty clear it IS a viable solution.

    This is always a case of balancing equal rights. There IS a right to be free from noxious chemicals that are voluntarily emitted that must be balanced against the right to emit those noxious chemicals. I think the fist/nose paradigm applies perfectly here.

  19. #19 |  James | 

    @ #4 E:

    The world is not your iron lung. If you are so sensitive to every day things, perhaps your life is best lived out inside a plastic bubble.

    It is not my – or anyone else’s duty – to fund government programs and laws that make the world safe for you and your over-sensitive lungs. The idea that the world owes it to you to be pollutant free so you can sit in a restaurant or bar eating unhealthy foods or slurping down toxic liquors is as sickening as it is indefensible.

  20. #20 |  Perfume restrictions in the news | 

    […] 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 […]

  21. #21 |  FreeWestRadio.com » Blog Archive » Reductio Creep | 

    […] the Agitator […]

  22. #22 |  R | 

    To most of the posters on here: you are missing the point. It is not about “not liking” the “overdoing” of of the smell of the colognes/perfumes. It is simply and seriously a health issue. Most of you are sarcastically commenting and joking as if we should either “deal” with it, or quit our jobs if we can’t. First of all, don’t you think we have asked (and repeatedly, and really nicely) that the offenders lighten up, wear less, or not wear the scents to work?? These co workers just don’t care; they do whatever they want whenever they want because they only care about themselves. Second, it is “work”…not a date; not a club. It is not necessary to douse yourself with cologne, perfume and scented lotions to go to the office to work. Third, yes, this should be compared to the second hand smoke movement…this is how that started. Remember how smoking was allowed in the past – you could smoke on trains, planes and in offices?? Today, many offices are now scent free, including the CDC! Finally, I get severe migraines from strong perfume smells. I have gone to the ER 3 times so far. At each ER visit, I have received 2 IV injections of Demerol because my migraine meds were not strong enough to relieve my migraine pain! Migraine patients live in fear of the next attack. So, who should pay for those visits to the ER?? Or, are you seriously suggesting that I quit my job because other employees cannot resist the urge to spray and pour cologne all over their bodies to go to work?? I have a co worker who suffers from asthma and starts coughing and wheezing when Mr. “AXE” passes by her desk. Should he pay for her doctor bills and meds because he cannot control himself from overpouring the AXE?? Or should she also quit her job?? There are 2 other women who just love their new perfumes and they keep re-spraying throughout the day….and the scent is like a knife in the side of my head, and my co worker continues to cough and wheeze…. We have asked nicely, and repeatedly, but nothing changes. People are self centered and they simply do not care about others. The bottom line is: Bans are sometimes needed and necessary. This is not a joke; you obviously never had migraines. And the pain aside, (which is unbearable)….the related monetary costs are extremely high. Why should I suffer in pain and pay out of pocket, simply because co workers are selfish?