Scratch and sniff

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Scratch and sniff technology generally refers to stickers or papeboard items that have been treated with a fragrant coating. When scratched, the coating releases an odor that is normally related to the image displayed under the coating. The technology has been used on a variety of surfaces from stickers to compact discs. 3M invented the technology in 1965, using a process originally developed for carbonless copy paper called microencapsulation.[1]


Scratch-and-sniff stickers and labels became popular in the late 1970s, and remained so through to the mid-1980s. In 1977, Creative Teaching Press produced some of the earliest scratch and sniff stickers. These stickers were mainly marketed to teachers as rewards for their students.[2]

For a time, scratch-and-sniff stickers were used to diagnose anosmia, although this practice later declined.

Utility companies have enclosed scratch and sniff cards in their bills to educate the public in recognizing the smell of a methane gas leak. In 1987, cards distributed by the Baltimore Gas and Electric Company led to a rash of false alarms when the scents of cards in unopened envelopes were mistaken for real gas leaks.[3]


Scratch and sniff is created through the process of micro-encapsulation. The desired smell is surrounded by micro-capsules that break easily when gently rubbed. The rub to release action breaks the micro-encapsulated bubbles and releases the aroma. Because of the micro-encapsulation, the aroma can be preserved for extremely long periods of time.

While there were hundreds of companies that put out Scratch and Sniff stickers, the most well known are the originators Creative Teaching Press (CTP) (who later renamed them Sniffy's in 1980/1981), Trend Enterprise's Stinky Stickers line (which followed directly after CTP), Hallmark, Sandylion, Spindex, Gordy, and Mello Smello.

In popular culture[edit]

German scratch and sniff card from the film Polyester

Apart from the stickers, scratch and sniff surfaces are to be found on some objects in popular culture:


  1. ^ Soniak, Matt. "How Does Scratch and Sniff Work?". Mental Floss. Retrieved June 29, 2016.
  2. ^
  3. ^ AP (1987-09-06). "Noses Are Out of Joint Over Baltimore Smell - New York Times". Retrieved 2014-08-12.
  4. ^ "BBC News - London to 'taste' New Year's celebrations at fireworks display". 2013-12-31. Retrieved 2014-08-12.
  5. ^ The Huffington Post UK/PA (2013-12-31). "London New Years Eve 2013: Scratch 'N' Sniff 'Multi-Sensory' Fireworks Celebrations To Kick Off In The Capital". Retrieved 2014-08-12.
  6. ^ agencies 12:01AM GMT 31 Dec 2013 (2013-12-31). "New Year's Eve London revellers will 'taste and smell' fireworks party". Telegraph. Retrieved 2014-08-12.
  7. ^ Layton, Josh (2014-01-01). "New Year's Eve 2013: Celebrations from all over the world - the globe says goodbye to 2013 in style - Mirror Online". Retrieved 2014-08-12.
  8. ^ Harley Quinn Annual #1 (October 2014)

External links[edit]