Scents and smells at Market


adobe stock public domain photosThere has been considerable heated discussion on social media about different “smelly” products at markets and their effect on others. Do you sell incense? Are you a candlemaker, or an “e-cig” vendor, or do you have other scented items where that you rely on samples or aromas to sell them? What’s a market organiser to do?

You might have seen a recent article on TV about e-cigarettes lately? There are popular sellers of “E-cig” products in Tasmania who are very clear about only selling products WITHOUT nicotine and they go out of their way to display all the appropriate paperwork, not sell to minors, and must not make any claims of health benefits etc. adobe stock public domain photos

According to the Department of Health & Human Services, E-cigarettes are permitted to be sold in Tasmania...”Yes. E-cigarettes and their cartridges can be sold in Tasmania provided the cartridges do not contain nicotine.” And it’s likely that vendors will want to demonstrate scented samples, just like other market sellers?

Other obviously scented product ranges are candles, oils, and incense. Is it the quality of the product that some people are unable to tolerate, the atomic particles, or the aromas they emit? Is it the simple fact that you can see the smoke, a reminder of the invisible emissions of sneezes and colds that flow from mouths all around us or the sense of dangerous burning?

By Visitor7 - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

By Visitor7 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

When I was growing up, I used to buy cheap-arse incense and burn it in my bedroom, for that totally hip bohemian look (that seems again to be all the rage for 14-year olds in 2017). My mother used to curse the stuff, adamant that it gave her headaches. These days, I can see what she means. I now prefer a good quality incense. If you’re going to purchase cheap incense to burn, you may as well burn the packet it came in.

Incense and smudgesticks seem to be a common concern. Incense is made from organic powders infused with fragrance and emits an aromatic smoke trail when burned. Smudgesticks are those wrapped-up dried things that are burnt in a home to remove smells and the shadows on unwanted spiritual vibrations. They’re usually made of sage and other herbs and wafted around on movies by clairvoyants and American-Indians. People have been doing it in personal and social spaces for thousands of years. I know plenty of people who covet the smell of those gorgeous textiles that come with that classic nagchampa smell.

Like everyone else, some aromas attract me – boobialla burning on the campfire in Spring and the smell of homemade croissants. Like everyone else, I’m also less tolerant to some smells. Despite my penchant for passively enjoying a quality cherry nougat tobacco smoked in a pipe, tobacco burning at a hundred paces through three lead walls haunts me and I feel like vomiting. I don’t think anyone educated can claim that tobacco is okay in any retail or food space.

Is it about quality? Is it a chemical thing in our brain?

Commonly found in most households are fly sprays, power socket chemical dispensers, room deoderisers, and roll-on insect repellents.  In the 1950s, we were encouraged by sleek advertising promotions to spray the equivalent to 1020 all over the kids and kitchen for our “health”. Doctors’ recommendations were accompanied by images of sleeping babies and flawless mothers and toxins are always “pleasantly fragrant”. Mmm Fly-tox, Skat, Trimz DDT.  In original fragrance? These days, we can purchase sensitive varieties or “low-allergy” versions….

Personally, I prefer none of the these industrial killers. Give me citronella candles, oils, and incense any time. Especially one I’ve bought at the market! Mankind has been softly ‘smoking’ bees to keep them calm whilst extracting the delicious nectar they happily keep providing! Flies and ants don’t eat much anyway.

Regardless of the safety of any product, there seems to be a discussion in the land of markets, bazaars, and fairs as to what to make of selling aromatic items at your local market…

I had a really quick search around the internet and easily found articles espousing both benefits and concerns of many synthetic and natural goods. The writer of this blog cannot use essential oils due to the scent. Many of the replies in her blog thread strongly disagree and others repeat the claims. The writer admits her hyper-sensitivity stating that she got a headache from cooking pasta sauce in her house all day. I get that with aerosol cans….trust me, I’ve been stuck in a 1960s Morris Mini Travellers Van with five crates of paint spray cans and solvents on a long hot drive around Tasmania. I only did it once. I don’t recommend it. You start to hear funny voices.

But this isn’t about paint. It isn’t even about oils. I used to have a neighbour who could not be around lavender (the plant) at all, as it gave her headaches. I’ve known other people with the same result, whilst the majority of the world’s reporting population claim that lavender (fresh or oil) commonly relieves headaches and migraines.

adobe stock public domain photosSome time ago, I had a lovely lady hug me at the market. The intensity of the perfume she left, seemingly all over me, was enough for me to have to go wash my skin and change my shirt. I couldn’t stomach it, it burned my nose, and it sent my head into a spin.

I also know what it’s like to be on the receiving end of inescapable blasts of bad breath. Hopefully we are not at the mercy of having to stay stationery behind our stall,  unlike a wandering customer. Let’s not forget our neighbouring stalls and any market staff.

What constitutes ‘offensive’?

When I walk into a market, I like to experience the sounds, sights, and smells. Which smells? One of the first joys of the market day is when I smell the sweet scents of natural soy candles. We have a few conscientious makers at our market who use quality scents and the products are created to provide ambient light, attractive homewares and gifts, as well as being great as a topical massage for the skin, but mostly as an aroma. I can smell them even unpacked, well before they’re lighted. I know vendors often light their products to give customers an example of the quality of scent they offer. What about certain scents, or strong scents? Do candlemakers encounter issues? Are they too much? Might they cause some people headaches as they pass by?adobe stock public domain photos

Cooking smells, spices, and onion products, sauces, nuts, and cooking smells that might be strong, the first smoking of the hot plate for the day, meat smells for a vegan or vegetarian. And don’t forget the 10% of the population who cannot tolerate the smell or taste of coriander!

In writing this, Mister, who also happens to be a cilantro adversary, comes inside the house smelling like an oil can……

And then there are other airborne villians that can create an allergic reaction from ten paces, – pollens and plants, feathers from live birds or in other products, some timber dust, cleaning products, glues, finishing mediums, and other natural materials that might be present in market goods. If in doubt, just don’t stop to eat the cheese, nuts, breads, or touch the unknown plants or wrap up in knitted fibres.

adobe stock public photos      adobe stock public domain photos   By Giovanni Dall'Orto - Self-photographed, Attribution,

Like I said, what’s a market organiser to do?


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