Idea for Perfume Ban Stinks

By Jason Menard

Does the nose know best? Or have we lost all sense when it comes to scents. The proposal by a citizen’s group in our nation’s capital just shows that common sense is just not all that common anymore.

Ottawa city councilors will be debating the merits of a proposed action designed to minimize the use of perfumes and other scents in public places. This action is well-intentioned as it’s an attempt to diminish the discomfort for those with breathing challenges and allergies.

But you know what they say about how the road to hell is paved… Although at least Ottawa’s off-ramp will be sweet smelling.

Odiferous or odious? Well, that’s really a matter of personal choice now, isn’t it? And can you truly legislate against personal preferences? Is that a road that we really want to go down? Already certain businesses and health care institutions have implemented low-odour or no-odour policies due to health concerns, but should this really be in writing, punishable by a fine? Will people be sent to jail for fragrances?

Will we come to the day in Canada when Passion, Contradiction, Escape, and Truth will be crimes? The Calvin Klein versions, of course.

Personally, the idea of any government body spending more than a nanosecond debating this is frightening as it means we’re almost at the point where we’ve totally relinquished control over our own actions. We’re on the verge of abdicating the right to think for ourselves in an attempt to ensure that no one’s rights are trampled upon.

Like a number of you, I’m not a fan of that wall of scent that greets you as you walk into certain department stores. You hold your breath as you rush through the flowery – yet still fetid – air, eyes watering at the intrusion of the aromatic waves. In this case, these floral notes are all wrong – yet I’ve made a choice to enter that store, knowing full well what I’m going to be walking into. But if we’re willing to get tough on the purchasers, should not the vendors be subject to the same scrutiny?

And what about other issues? What about offensive body odour? If we’re willing to investigate legislation regarding sweet-smelling perfume, should we not also look into what can be done about people with personal hygiene issues?

Just as noxious as the over-sprayed is the under-washed. How many times have you been in a grocery or department store, minding your own business, when – as Vincent Price so eloquently put — the funk of 40,000 years wallops you in the face and sends you reeling? Male or female, fetid body odour knows no bounds. Yet where is the proposed legislation over that? Are allergies any more important than retching?

Maybe instead of spending time and money on potential legislation and/or information campaigns, we should be hoping that common sense and common courtesy will prevails.

If you work in an environment where someone has taken liberties with the spritzer, then you have the right to request a toning down of the scent. Similarly, if you work with other people – especially those with compromised respiratory issues, asthma, or allergies – then you have an obligation, as a human, to not be offensive.

That’s it, that’s all. Simple as that. No need to enact new laws, no need to criminalize people for wanting to smell better. All it takes is a little common courtesy and willingness to work in a group dynamic. Yet we seem to be incapable of taking this simple action. We’re so focused on ourselves that we refuse – or are unwilling – to take others’ needs into consideration.

The fact that this situation is being discussed in Ottawa isn’t the problem. The real joke is that it needs to be discussed at all. People say you can’t legislate common sense, but what does it say about us when our governments at least have to try.

Despite all the perfume in the air, something still smells foul – perhaps its our lack of respect for each other.

2006© Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved

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