Could a downtrodden industry be hatching a fiendish plot?
At the end of May, a proposal was made in Ottawa that was by all means indecent. Sure, Canada has led the way towards progress these past few years by allowing folks to actually smoke a little marijuana during their gay weddings. But to actually propose a city-wide ban on fragrances and scented products? Well, that's just sad, really. Jake Rupert of the Ottawa Citizen writes, “Under the proposal made by a citizens' committee on the environment, a public education program aimed at getting people to voluntarily stop using the scents would be followed by a mandatory ban in all city buildings, on transit, and at sports and community centres.” Nothing scented at a sports centre? Not even some Right Guard? How about disinfectant for the locker rooms? A mandatory ban on fragrance – hmmm. I mean, sure…there may be certain people who are prone to allergies triggered by the chemicals used to scent cleaning products and cosmetics…and then there are those who claim that their asthma is affected…not to mention the migraine headaches and itchy eyes, but to force everyone to stop scenting themselves? I believe it can only be a fiendish plot to strike terror into the hearts of all Calvin Klein-loving fragrance users by that radical, puritanical group, the Anti-Scentites.
Oh, you know who I'm talking about. The Anti-Scentites….They have secret members strategically positioned around the globe with specialized tactics more advanced than that crafty sales associate at your local Macy's. For some reason, they seem to be focusing their efforts as of late on Canada. Mr. Rupert continues: “If Ottawa passed a law against scents, it would be the first place in Canada to do so. However, anti-scent public campaigns are under way in Nova Scotia and the City of Halifax.” Listen up, people! We can't have this! This isn't the first time the Anti-Scentites have struck! Colin Nickerson in the Boston Globe reports that in Marin County, California, a voluntary ban on scented products in civic locations is already under way!
When considering the list of world ills that deserve to be addressed, Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS), or environmental illness (believed to be brought on by everything from household cleaners and everyday scented products to other chemicals lurking in the air that we breathe), is not exactly highest on my list. But the Anti-Scentites fight on. And those poor people in Halifax. Apparently, a student was expelled from a high school for using scented hair gel while a poor older woman was removed from City Hall because of the sillage of her customary cologne (well, ok, fair enough, it was Jean Nate). Mr. Nickerson continues, “Specialists say some people do suffer severely from exposure to perfumes and scented cosmetics, but the reasons are poorly understood and the reactions -- including headaches, vomiting, and seizures -- do not appear to be caused by genuine physical allergies, much less poisoning.” Having had American friends whose sniffers had become so sensitive during pregnancy that they could smell a pot of rice approaching a boil in Cambodia and then immediately hurl in response, I understand that when our olfactory centers go awry, life can get pretty tough.
But come on people! You can't tell Canadians that they can smoke pot and then not allow them a can of Lysol or a scented candle to help clear the air! You can't tell two gay men that they can marry without expecting the entire wedding party to smell like a bomb had been dropped at the Passage d'Enfer . And to expect an entire city to discontinue its enjoyment of Febreze merely because the woman behind the wheel of the #22 downtown bus is prone to having seizures whenever she smells it is…is….ummm, well…it would be humane wouldn't it!? Ok, I admit it. Not using scented products would be humane, and considerate. But maybe the problem is not so much ALL scented products as it is just a few key ingredients…and why should those wicked few ruin it for the other less toxic chemicals?
Recently, I had been planning a visit to the childhood home of one of my closest friends, Becky. Her mom is very sensitive to fragrance and upon visiting, Becky routinely reminds me to either wear something light, or even better, to not wear anything at all (fragrance, that is). Long story short, my plans had changed and I was on my way to Becky's having already shpritzed on some Bond 9 Riverside Drive. What did I do? I called Becky, apologized, let her know I was already contaminated, and asked her to meet me outside so I wouldn't offend her mother. There, crisis averted. Sinuses saved. Point 1 for Marlen and Bond and all because Becky's mom had had the courtesy to ask me to be mindful of her allergies. I mean…should I expect the entire neighborhood to stop mowing their lawns because the aroma of fresh-cut grass makes me gag?
In the end, I suppose it does make sense that if I can ask you not to smoke in front of me, you should have the same right to ask me not to wear fragrance. And at times, I have been asked just that…and I have (though highly unwillingly) complied. But what I'm really raving about today is this new movement by the Anti-Scentites to keep the world's flowers growing in our fields, to keep the redwood trees shading our forests, to keep the crystallized whale vomit floating in our seas, to remove aroma from our daily lives…. But imagine what an odd world we would be living in with no scent to surround us (of course, Civet cats and Musk deer everywhere would issue sighs of relief). Well, that's not quite true, is it, because we'd still have the odor of building materials, food products, industrial waste and by-products, vehicle exhaust and our own primordial aromas to contend with. So, instead of battling scent, or removing one scent just to be plagued by another, why not battle whatever it is that is causing the harm to begin with?
And so this leads me to the identity of the Anti-Scentites. Remember the whispers that told of hidden weapons of mass destruction and the supposed allegations that the weapons were no more than an exercise in wagging the dog? I wonder if Big Tobacco has found a new smokescreen – if aroma is toxic, it could really help take the attention away from the perils of nicotine. Moreover, I've heard that exposure to marijuana actually dulls one's ability to register aroma; Canada's already de-criminalized marijuana and Big Tobacco needs a new game plan, so maybe the answer is staring us right in the face? Halifax – the new headquarters of a new kind of cigarette that prevents adverse reactions to a new kind of illness? What? Is that stretching things a bit too far? I must be high again from a sniffing overdose…too much Opium.