Pepper spray

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Pepper spray (a.k.a. Mace, which is a trademark) is a chemical compound placed in pressurized cans for the purpose of self-defense which was developed in the 1990s.[1] If an individual is attacked, they can hopefully spray this substance in their attacker's face. If successfully delivered, the pepper spray immediately causes pain in the attacker's mucus membranes and other sensitive tissue. The desired result is for the attacker to be incapacitated by the pain in his/her eyes, nose, mouth, throat, and usually even skin.[1]


Pepper spray is named appropriately, since it generally contains a high percentage of Oleoresin Capsicum[2] found in the capsicum genus of plants, otherwise known as peppers. A chili pepper used can be uncomfortable enough in the mouth, but it is especially so in the eyes and nose. When the capsicum is extracted, this alone can be a very painful substance to have on one's face. However, capsicum oil is often not the only component in pepper spray. Modern sprays also often have Chlorobenzalmalononitrile (CS) tear gas. This substance makes the would-be attacker's experience even worse, as it causes stronger pain in more places, sometimes lasts longer, and tends to work its way through his or her respiratory system better.[1] The last common ingredient in many kinds or pepper spray is UV dye. This potentially makes it easier for the would-be attacker to be identified afterwards. This dye will effect almost any permeable surface, including skin and clothing.


This "weapon" is designed to leave no lasting effects. In theory this can be good, but in some cases, it simply is not enough. Also since everyone knows it is not permanently harmful, it does not serve as a very strong deterrent in many cases. Also, it relies largely on surprise. If the attacker has already experienced pepper spray, they will not be as incapacitated.[1] The list of problems goes on, including:

  • While it can be effective against a single attacker, multiple attackers will be difficult to stop.
  • While this offers some range, it is still limited, generally to ten feet or less, although some can spray up to twenty feet
  • Wind can cause the stream to miss the attacker, and can even cause some of it to come back on the person discharging the spray
  • If the attacker's face is not easily accessible, pepper spray is almost useless
  • The would-be victim must move quickly to escape. Although hopefully blinded, the attacker may still be able to cause harm. This makes it less useful for the elderly and disabled.[1]
  • Unlike a gun, pepper spray cannot be simply brandished to deter an attacker. If the would-be victim reveals they have pepper spray before using it, they will lose the vital factor of surprise
  • Compact cans of this spray often may not contain enough for defending one's self against even a single attacker. These will be even less useful against multiple attackers.[1]
  • Surprisingly, many pepper sprays actually are harmful to one's ongoing health, as well.[3]

Also, there are philosophical problems with the use of pepper spray. The greatest is probably that a society armed with nothing but pepper spray will cause crime to become something less dangerous. Attacking an "armed" citizen will result in some severe pain for a couple hours, but little more as long as they are able to escape after being sprayed. Pepper spray is a weak deterrent in general as opposed to firearms and other ranged, potentially deadly weapons