Smell gas? Scratch & sniff

We recently got a mailing from our gas provider and were puzzled because we have always been enrolled for paperless statements, and they don’t usually spam us with ads for additional services like banks sometimes do.

It turned out to be a scratch & sniff to remind the public of the smell of mercaptan, which is added to odorless natural gas lines as an olfactory marker that most people can identify quickly. You can’t run this campaign virtually.

It’s been a while since I’ve smelled gas (that is, mercaptan), but this aroma was drier than I remembered it—very sterile, unlike rotten eggs or other sulfurous emissions, which have an “oily” olfactory quality to my nose.

The smell is quite effective in evoking “danger,” though, if one has been conditioned to fear it as a signal of such. Fortunately, the scent barely lasts past each single scratch.

2 thoughts on “Smell gas? Scratch & sniff

  1. What a curious campaign!

    Having grown up with several gas appliances (the stove and instant water heater), I think I have that smell imprinted in my mind. “Gas” was the first scary smell everyone in my native country was conditioned to recognize. Too bad carbon monoxide can’t be odorized.


    1. As I understand, gas companies have done this kind of campaign before, but it’s the first time I’ve received such a mailing. I also wish there were more signals for carbon monoxide. The smoke detectors in my apartment are quite sensitive, though.


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