Why the American Lung Association Spoke Out Against a Stamp Series

The association, which heavily relies on direct mail campaigns, argued against the U.S. Postal Service’s release of its first-ever series of scratch-and-sniff stamps out of concern for asthma sufferers.

Philatelists—aka stamp fans—might have expressed excitement about the idea of the U.S. Postal Service announcing a set of scratch-and-sniff stamps, but those novel stamps convinced a major association to speak out.

Last month, USPS released a series of stamps themed around different types of popsicles and other frozen treats. (Scratching them releases a fragrance that evokes those treats, of course.)

But in the days before the stamps came out, the American Lung Association made a last-ditch appeal against their release, citing concerns about the impact of the chemicals used on such materials for people with lung problems.

In a letter [PDF] to USPS Vice President of Marketing Steven W. Monteith, ALA President and CEO Harold P. Wimmer pointed out the risks that scratch-and-sniff stamps can create for the 26 million Americans who have asthma.

“While we understand that the USPS carefully followed its protocol to vet and finalize these new stamps,” Wimmer wrote, “people with allergies and asthma report that certain odors, even in small amounts, can cause asthma symptoms, including upper respiratory symptoms, shortness of breath, and asthma attacks. Fragrances used in workplaces have been linked to new-onset asthma.”

The association noted it has a long history with the Postal Service, having run direct mail-based campaigns for 110 years.

Speaking to the stamp-collector publication Linn’s Stamp News, ALA Spokeswoman Allison MacMunn noted the stamps could raise issues for “both postal workers and the public.”

The stamps were eventually released, but according to Linn’s, the Postal Service made efforts to reassure ALA in a response to its letter, saying that the fragrance used “complies with all the safety requirements listed in the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act.”

“The scratch-and-sniff feature utilizes encapsulated microfragrances where tiny droplets of scented oils are surrounded by a coating to create extremely small capsules,” Postal Service spokesman David Partenheimer told Linn’s. “These micrometric capsules will release the scent of the oil when ruptured by scratching the printed stamp surface.”

(U.S. Postal Service)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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