The Anti-Scentites

22nd October, 2005

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.

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About the author: Marlen Harrison

Dr Marlen Harrison is the perfumer/owner of King’s Palace Perfumery, as well as creator/editor of, founded in 2006. As well as Basenotes, Harrison has contributed to Fragrantica, NowSmellThis, BeautyAddictMag and The Washington Blade.


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    • Scentronic | 22nd October 2006 14:56

      What an utterly retarded proposal. What is this Nazi Germany? What kind of whiney little hypochondriac would feel justified telling other people that they have no right to wear a fragrance?!

      This outrages me and I don't even live in Canada. I would tear that F*cking sign down the second I saw it.

    • Scentronic | 22nd October 2006 15:04

      I've got sensitive eyes. I propose that every public building, object, person etc in America strip the paint off of themselves or wear grey clothing, so as not to hurt my fragile little eyes. A government-approved medium grey should make everyone happy, right? Every building, every piece of clothing, every car. Grey. Sound fun?

    • Marcello | 22nd October 2006 15:37

      great column, Marlen. Discussing this matter on Basenotes is a bit like "preaching for one's own congregation", as they would say in Dutch, but you make some valid points.

      Since the late 80s several scholars have addressed this phenomenon of deodorization, which seems to occur mainly in Western societies. I don't see it as a rational response to (psycho)fysiological phenomena, but rather as a cultural tendency, in which the preoccupation with cleanliness plays a big role. Besides it being technically unachievable and economically undesirable, I think that banning the use of fragrance altogether would prove to be an ineffective measure against said sensitivities and allergies. Proper scientific evidence will need to set the record straight.

    • Brut | 22nd October 2006 15:43

      What's next, a ban on public farting. :angry: :embarassed:

    • Brut | 22nd October 2006 15:47

      Not that I like to fart that much in Public.

      Hey!, I'll hold one for the team. :cry:

    • badaim | 22nd October 2006 15:48

      Hmm...I wonder what other students would think when their peers walk into their class after gym class without deodorant? <_<

    • HackerX | 22nd October 2006 16:10

      I heard there's going to be a ban on Axe in public schools in Toronto. If that's the case i really dont have anything against it as these students are poinsoning everybody with these sprays. However, it's not a good sign for the other fragrance wearers that the authorities are taking notice, soon it could move to the general public. Looks like i'd have to stay out of the country permanently if i were to go around freely without getting arrested. I think overall, most people just dont understand the meaning of "easy on the trigger", thus, ruining the reputation of us who still live by the law. It's sad, truly is.

    • Scentronic | 22nd October 2006 16:35

      Just to clarify, this is the most current article on the main page of

      I wonder if the kids are making flammable toys/bombs/weapons with the axe products.

    • Grant | 22nd October 2006 17:11

      [quote=perfectfeet]I would tear that F*cking sign down the second I saw it.[/quote]

      Hey! I spent ages making that in Photoshop and you want to tear it down ? :cry::cry::cry::cry::cry:

    • myaccolades | 22nd October 2006 18:53

      I believe we've had this discussion before a couple months back and my standing stays the same: I don't give a flying-.

      Ahem. The notion of the ban of fragrances - which is impossible - is completely ridiculous. This entire world is full of fragrant things and the only way for them to really ban fragrances is to destroy everyone's sense of smell. I live in Toronto and if they try to ban fragrances in my city, well, I say screw'em. I'll still wear my fragrances and they can't do a THING about it. You know why? There are so many reasons a person might smell:

      "I'm sorry but that's not Green Irish Tweed you're smelling, someone pushed me into a big pile of LEGAL greens and fruits and I came out smelling like this... sorry."


      "No, no, sir. I'm not wearing a fragrance. It's my personal body odour. I ate an immense amount of spices, flowers, and woods last night in specific proportions and for some reason, my body is exuding this smell today! It's my body odour, I swear. I'm afraid it's a one time occurance so you can't test me by having me reproduce these results for you a second time. Sorry *shrugs shoulders*"

      I've read many of these articles and theses Anti-Scentites are just out of their minds. The WORST of them though are those who say "I can't stand ANY fragrance! I get allergies and I'm going to die! Oh, but I CAN stand this one fragrance that, you know, that I wear myself."

      Anyways, that's all I've to say right now.

    • MadScientist | 22nd October 2006 20:20

      How could this possibly be enforced?

      How could it be proven that someone is wearing a scented product?

      If you're "charged" with the crime of being scented, can you appeal? How would you prove the absence of a scent...especially later when it would be gone even if it were there to begin with?

      What if someone intentionally over-spritzes themselves and goes running through a mall? Scenterrorist!

      Scent officer: "Excuse me sir. You smell too nice. I'm going to have to give you a citation."

      If you were stopped on the street by an officer and told you had been identified as wearing a fragrance (and you are), what if you just run away? Would the officers even bother to come after you? Would they call in reinforcements?

      What about repeat offenders? Would you eventually get thrown in jail for multiple offenses?

      1st convict: Hey buddy, what are you in for?

      2nd convict: Serial fragrance wearing.

    • Cognoscento | 26th October 2006 15:15

      Great article, Marlen, as always!

      This is very discouraging. I live near Ottawa, and enjoy going there sometimes, and I even have a BN friend there. It's generally a great place.

      Banning frags is generally a stupid idea, though it may come from good intentions. I'd agree that perfume may bother some people, and even give them allergic reactions. But it's too little, too late anyway - if you've done any reading on environmental toxicity, you'll discover that harmful chemicals are everywhere, acid rain being a great example. When you add up all the things that are rife in the environment, it increases all kinds of problems, including allergies, asthma, on and on.

      So eliminating perfume will do nothing to solve this problem. But it's a simple thing that politicians and constituents can understand. Science is not easy for them to understand. Short of governments having leadership and reducing toxin production, the individual has to take steps with their own health to reduce toxins in their own body and increase resistance. Then the body will not react so easily to every stimulus.

      Next time I head up to Ottawa, I'm going to layer Envy, Visit, M7, and Rive Gauche all at once to lay down some SERIOUS stank!!!

    • Cognoscento | 26th October 2006 15:18

      [QUOTE=Basenotes Admin]Hey! I spent ages making that in Photoshop and you want to tear it down ? :cry::cry::cry::cry::cry:[/QUOTE]

      But, but, but, Grant....

      You mean that sign wasn't real??????? Say it ain't so, Joe!!!




    • Hex_queen | 4th November 2006 01:23

      I've seen studies that basically find that either the scent-nazis are heavy, bored, white middle-aged females, or that when the scientists test the self-annointed super-sensitives and expose them to the allergens --BUT in a way to not alert them--say, without scent---THEY DON'T REACT, no physical symptoms. How funny is that?

      Now, a lot of Drs won't set these people straight because it'd be bad for business and they're afraid of getting even a bogus lawsuit.

      I have friends, and my sister that seem to get a subtle power trip over making others jump through their hoops.

      My sister can wilt with the vapors and drive my mother demand that I "wash off whatever THAT is". She doesn't act this way to anybody in public, or in the family.

      My 50-ish female friends used to be really beastly in restaurants/shops, nasty to the staff over any incense or odor in the business. --All that ended when my friends lost a ton of weight, got a face-tuneup---now they are too busy having fun & tearing up the town to even think about it. No more angry, theatrical coughing or huffy comments.

      The local portland community college has offices blocked off to scent-wearers, and with signs up all over "Scent-Free Zone", in the bathrooms, etc.

      One gal that came to a friend's party, she was going on-&-on about her super-sensitive daughter, all wild-eyed, venomous and down-right-scary. They'd de-scented all the kids in her highschool, by threatening to sue the school, no scented products of any sort. Momma was not in a relationship, a secretarial subsistance job. The teenager would cut school anytime she encountered a smell, and come cling to Momma at work.

      NONE of these folks seem to object to food smells of any sort---they enjoy food smells, and love to eat--a lot.

    • plumaria | 5th October 2010 12:16

      Very thought provoking. why scents? Why not the ones that are a real danger to us like smoking in public, use of intoxicants and worst of all is the industrial waste which is drained in rivers and lakes. It hurts me the most when animals are killed to adorn our clothes with fur, the worst of the killings in my opinion. Well, I don't know much as how musk is obtained from musk deers and civet cats? Is it by killing them or a kind of operation is done to get it. If it's by killing then I would want that some better options should be chosen to create fragrances. Although God created them for reasons and taught us humans to explore the universe but I really find it unfair to take someone's right to live.