FRAGRANCES, CLOCKWISE FROM TOP: Annick Goutal Nuit Étoilée, Roberto Cavalli Roberto Cavalli, Ralph Lauren Big Pony Collection #1, Guerlain Lys Soleia Aqua Allegoria, Penhaligon’s Bluebell Eau De Toilette, David Yurman Eau De Parfum, Chanel Coco De Chanel, Jo Malone Plum Blossom, Balenciaga L’essence, Prada Infusion D’iris Eau De Parfum Absolue, Burberry Brit, Dior J’adore Dior. 

The idea of employees being stopped at the door, or even being fired, because they doused themselves in J’Adore may seem far-fetched. But in January, perfume prohibition took on a new momentum when New Hampshire State Representative Michele Peckham sponsored a bill to bar state employees from wearing scent to work. “It came about because I received a letter from a constituent who had a seizure she believed was caused by the fragrance worn by a state employee,” says Peckham. “I did a lot of research and I thought it was a valid point.”

No action has been enforced just yet—the bill was killed in committee. But scent is no stranger to controversy. Back in the ’80s, Giorgio Beverly Hills was famously banned in several LA restaurants for being as obnoxious as the sizes of the shoulder pads worn by the clientele. “The trail for Giorgio not only went ahead of you,” says perfumer Stephen J. Nilsen, “it opened the door for you.”

But with perfume a $3.1-billion-a-year industry in the US, the fact remains that we are wedded to our scents. So should consumers be told when and where they are allowed to wear them? “I think the idea of banning perfume is silly—soon people won’t even be allowed to wear perfume to the theater,” laments French perfumer Francis Kurkdjian, creator of F by Ferragamo and Le Male for Jean-Paul Gaultier. “If you have that one person who is allergic, I don’t see why you can’t find an agreement within the office.”

Of course, no one should be asked to compromise his or her health in order to earn a living. But consider this: Research has shown that some fragrances can significantly enhance performance in the workplace. Floral and jasmine scents increase reaction times by nearly 20 percent; peppermint amps up working memory; and finding out the opposition’s choice of ice cream flavor could help you steer them in your favor (but more on that later).

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