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.