A New Hampshire legislator is breathing new life into a proposal to prohibit state employees from wearing perfume and other fragrances to work.
State Rep. Charles Townsend (D-Canaan) has reintroduced legislation barring state employees who have contact with members of the public from wearing fragrances during the workday. A similar bill died in the state House of Representatives earlier this year, following discussions over whether it was constitutional for the state to regulate employees' fragrance choices.
Townsend said he considers the matter a public health issue. "There are enough people who are really allergic to enough fragrances," he told The Huffington Post. "It makes it difficult to visit state offices."
He added that while his bill only covers a portion of the state workforce, he would like to see it expanded to ban all state employees from wearing perfume and cologne to the office. Townsend said his sister-in-law was forced to seek a transfer from a job once because a coworker's perfume choice was making her ill.
Rep. Michele Peckham (R-North Hampton) pushed a fragrance ban bill earlier this year, but it was killed following a negative recommendation by the House Constitutional Review and Statutory Recodification Committee. Peckham said that while some people may have viewed the issue as "silly," she believed fragrances posed a legitimate health concern.
“Many people have violent reactions to strong scents," Peckham told The Union-Leader at the time.
Rep. Christopher Serlin (D-Portsmouth), a member of the constitutional review panel, told HuffPost that committee members had expressed two major concerns with the legislation. The first involved whether the desire to wear a fragrance to work was a matter of personal freedom, while the second related to other scented products.
Serlin said committee members argued that if the law started banning employees from wearing perfume and cologne, it could be expanded to prohibit scented detergent, fabric softener and deodorant.
"We felt it was technically impossible to administer," Serlin told HuffPost. "It opened the door to a lot of things that would get messy quickly."
The issue of fragrance in the workplace is not unique to New Hampshire. Government agencies and private employers in the United States and Canada have imposed similar bans, including the city of Detroit, the U.S. Census Bureau and the Challenge Charter School in Glendale, Ariz.
Townsend said that he believes the legislation stands a better shot of passing next year, adding that he plans to start a campaign to educate legislators on the issue. He said the House's shift from Republican to Democratic control may help.
But Serlin said that while Democrats may be more sensitive to the need of a fragrance ban than Republicans, who may view it as an unnecessary regulation, he questions whether the new majority will be enough.
"In the end, I can't see it passing," he said.