Pepper spray, oleoresin capsicum spray, OC spray, capsaicin spray, or capsicum spray is a
lachrymatory agent Tear gas, also known as a lachrymator agent or lachrymator (from the Latin ''lacrima'' meaning "tear"), sometimes colloquially known as "mace" after an early commercial aerosol, is a chemical weapon that stimulates the nerves of the lacrimal gl ...
(a compound that irritates the eyes to cause a burning sensation, pain, and temporary blindness) used in
policing The police are a constituted body of persons empowered by a state, with the aim to enforce the law, to ensure the safety, health and possessions of citizens, and to prevent crime and civil disorder. Their lawful powers include arrest and the us ...
riot control#REDIRECT Riot control ...
crowd control Crowd control is a public security practice where large crowds are managed to prevent the outbreak of crowd crushes, affray, fights involving drunk and disorderly people or riots. Crowd crushes in particular can cause many hundreds of fatalitie ...
, and
self-defense Self-defense (self-defence in some varieties of English) is a countermeasure that involves defending the health and well-being of oneself from harm. The use of the right of self-defense as a legal justification for the use of force in times ...
, including defense against dogs and bears. Its inflammatory effects cause the eyes to close, temporarily taking away vision. This temporary blindness allows officers to more easily restrain subjects and permits people in danger to use pepper spray in self-defense for an opportunity to escape. It also causes temporary discomfort and burning of the lungs which causes shortness of breath. Pepper spray was engineered into a spray originally for defense against bears, mountain lions, wolves and other dangerous predators. Many claim the use of OC is prohibited by the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) but it is not a chemical weapon and is listed as a "Riot Control Agent" according to the CWC's definitions. It is also listed as "Purposes Not Prohibited Under this Convention" under 9(d) of the CWC agreement (emphasis added). Kamran Loghman, the person who developed it for use in riot control, wrote the guide for police departments on how it should be used. It was successfully adapted, except for improper usages such as when police sprayed peaceful protestors at University of California, Davis in 2011, Loghman commented, "I have never seen such an inappropriate and improper use of chemical agents", prompting court rulings completely barring its use on docile persons.


The active ingredient in pepper spray is
capsaicin Capsaicin (8-methyl-''N''-vanillyl-6-nonenamide) is an active component of chili peppers, which are plants belonging to the genus ''Capsicum''. It is a chemical irritant for mammals, including humans, and produces a sensation of burning in any t ...
, which is derived from the fruit of plants in the genus ''
Capsicum ''Capsicum'' () is a genus of flowering plants in the nightshade family Solanaceae, native to the Americas, cultivated worldwide for their chili pepper fruit. Etymology and names The generic name may come from Latin , meaning 'box', presumably ...
'', including chilis. Extraction of
oleoresin capsicum Pepper spray, oleoresin capsicum spray, OC spray, capsaicin spray, or capsicum spray is a lachrymatory agent (a compound that irritates the eyes to cause a burning sensation, pain, and temporary blindness) used in policing, riot control, crowd ...
(OC) from peppers requires capsicum to be finely ground, from which capsaicin is then extracted using an organic solvent such as
ethanol Ethanol (also called ethyl alcohol, grain alcohol, drinking alcohol, or simply alcohol) is an organic chemical compound. It is a simple alcohol with the chemical formula C2H6O. Its formula can be also written as −− or (an ethyl group link ...
. The solvent is then evaporated, and the remaining waxlike resin is the oleoresin capsaicin. An
emulsifier An emulsion is a mixture of two or more liquids that are normally immiscible (unmixable or unblendable) owing to liquid-liquid phase separation. Emulsions are part of a more general class of two-phase systems of matter called colloids. Although t ...
such as
propylene glycol Propylene glycol (IUPAC name: propane-1,2-diol) is a viscous, colorless liquid, which is nearly odorless but possesses a faintly sweet taste. Its chemical formula is CH3CH(OH)CH2OH. Containing two alcohol groups, it is classed as a diol. It is m ...
is used to suspend OC in water, and the suspension is then pressurized to make an
aerosol An aerosol (abbreviation of "aero-solution") is a suspension of fine solid particles or liquid droplets in air or another gas.Hinds, 1999, p. 3 Aerosols can be natural or anthropogenic. Examples of natural aerosols are fog or mist, dust, forest e ...

pepper spray. Determining the strength of pepper sprays made by different manufacturers can be confusing and difficult. Statements a company makes about their product strength are not regulated. A method using the capsaicin and related capsaicinoids (CRC) content of the product is unreliable as well, because there are six different types of capsaicinoids, causing different levels of irritation. Manufacturers do not state which particular type of capsaicinoids are used. Personal pepper sprays can range from a low of 0.18% to a high of 3%. Most law enforcement pepper sprays use between 1.3% and 2%. The federal government of the United States has determined that bear attack deterrent sprays must contain at least 1.0% and not more than 2% CRC. CRC does not measure the amount of OC within the formulation. Instead, CRC is the pain-producing component of the OC that produces the burning sensation. The federal government of the United States makes no mention of Scoville heat units (SHU) or OC in their requirements, only CRC (only for bear attack deterrent sprays). But, there are countries (Italy, Portugal and Spain – see below, under "Legality") and a few states within the US that do mention OC limitations. Some manufacturers may show a very high percentage of OC and, although OC is the active ingredient within the formulation, it does not indicate pepper spray strength. High OC percentage also indicates that a spray has more oil content; which can possibly use lower grade pepper oils (but, more of it), or lower grade capsaicinoids (within the major CRCs) and also has less ability to soak and penetrate the skin than a formula with less, but higher-quality, pepper oil, because oil has hydrophobic properties. The OC percentage measures only the amount of chili oil extract contained in the defense spray, not the strength, pungency or effectiveness of the product. Other companies may show a high SHU. The SHU is a measurement of the base resin compound and not what comes out in the aerosol. The rated irritant effect of the resin may be diluted depending on how much of it is put in the can.


There are several counterparts of pepper spray developed and legal to possess in some countries. In the
United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain,Usage is mixed. The Guardian' and Telegraph' use Britain as a synonym for the United Kingdom. Some prefer to use Britain as shortha ...
(known also as
PAVA spray PAVA spray is an incapacitant spray similar to pepper spray. It is dispensed from a handheld canister, in a liquid stream. It contains a 0.3% solution of pelargonic acid vanillylamide (PAVA), a synthetic capsaicinoid (analogue of capsaicin), in a so ...
) is used by police officers. As a Section 5 weapon, it is not generally permitted to the public.
Pelargonic acid morpholide 4-Nonanoylmorpholine (pelargonic acid morpholide, N-nonanoylmorpholine, MPK or МПК (for russian: морфолид пеларгоновой кислоты), or MPA) is an amide of pelargonic acid and morpholine. Properties 4-Nonanoylmorpholine w ...
(MPK) is widely used as a self-defense chemical agent spray in
Russia Russia (russian: link=no, Россия, , ), or the Russian Federation, is a country spanning Eastern Europe and Northern Asia. It is the largest country in the world, covering and encompassing more than one-eighth of the Earth's inhabited l ...
, though its effectiveness compared to natural pepper spray is unclear. In
China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It is the world's most populous country, with a population of around 1.4 billion. Covering approximately 9.6 million square kilometers (3.7 million m ...
, Ministry of Public Security police units and security guards use tear gas ejectors with OC, CS or CN gases. These are defined as a "restricted" weapon that only police officers, as well as approved security, can use. However, the law does not forbid civilians from purchasing and possessing any non-police used pepper spray.


Pepper spray is an inflammatory agent. It inflames the mucous membranes in the eyes, nose, throat and lungs. It causes immediate closing of the eyes, difficulty breathing, runny nose, and coughing. The duration of its effects depends on the strength of the spray; the average full effect lasts from 20 to 90 minutes, but eye irritation and redness can last for up to 24 hours. The ''Journal of Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science'' published a study that concluded that single exposure of the eye to OC is harmless, but repeated exposure can result in long-lasting changes in
cornea The cornea is the transparent front part of the eye that covers the iris, pupil, and anterior chamber. The cornea, with the anterior chamber and lens, refracts light, with the cornea accounting for approximately two-thirds of the eye's total opti ...

l sensitivity. They found no lasting decrease in
visual acuity Visual acuity (VA) commonly refers to the clarity of vision, but technically rates an examinee's ability to recognize small details with precision. Visual acuity is dependent on optical and neural factors, i.e. (1) the sharpness of the retinal i ...
. The European Parliament Scientific and Technological Options Assessment (STOA) published in 1998 "An Appraisal of Technologies of Political Control" The STOA appraisal states: ::"Past experience has shown that to rely on manufacturers unsubstantiated claims about the absence of hazards is unwise. In the US, companies making crowd control weapons, (e.g. pepper-gas manufacturer Zarc International), have put their technical data in the public domain without loss of profitability." :and ::"Research on chemical irritants should be published in open scientific journals before authorization for any usage is permitted and that the safety criteria for such chemicals should be treated as if they were drugs rather than riot control agents;" For those taking drugs, or those subjected to restraining techniques that restrict the breathing passages, there is a risk of death. In 1995, the ''
Los Angeles Times The ''Los Angeles Times'' (sometimes abbreviated as ''LA Times'') is a daily newspaper based in El Segundo, California, which has been published in Los Angeles, California, since 1881. It has the fifth-largest circulation in the U.S., and is the ...

Los Angeles Times
'' reported at least 61 deaths associated with police use of pepper spray since 1990 in the USA. The
American Civil Liberties Union The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is a nonprofit organization founded in 1920 "to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States". Offi ...
(ACLU) documented 27 people in police custody who died after exposure to pepper spray in California since 1993 "Pepper spray's lethal legacy" in ''
Ottawa Citizen The ''Ottawa Citizen'' is an English-language daily newspaper owned by Postmedia Network in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. History Established as ''The Bytown Packet'' in 1845 by William Harris, it was renamed the ''Citizen'' in 1851. The newspaper' ...
''. October 22, 1998, p. A1.
However, the ACLU report counts all deaths occurring within hours of exposure to pepper spray regardless of prior interaction, taser use, or if drugs are involved. In all 27 cases listed by the ACLU, the coroners' report listed other factors as the primary cause of death; in few cases the use of pepper spray may have been a contributing factor. The US Army performed studies in 1993 at
Aberdeen Proving Ground Aberdeen Proving Ground (APG) (sometimes erroneously called Aberdeen Proving ''Grounds'') is a U.S. Army facility located adjacent to Aberdeen, Harford County, Maryland, United States. Part of the facility is a census-designated place (CDP), which ...
, and a UNC study in 2000 stated that the compound in peppers, capsaicin, is mildly mutagenic, and only 10% of mice exposed to it developed cancer. Where the study also found many beneficial effects of capsaicin, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration released statements declaring exposure of employees to OC is an unnecessary health risk. As of 1999, it was in use by more than 2,000 public safety agencies. The head of the FBI's Less-Than-Lethal Weapons Program at the time of the 1991 study, Special Agent Thomas W. W. Ward, was fired by the FBI and was sentenced to two months in prison for receiving payments from a pepper-gas manufacturer while conducting and authoring the FBI study that eventually approved pepper spray for FBI use. Prosecutors said that from December 1989 through 1990, Ward received about $5,000 a month for a total of $57,500, from Luckey Police Products, a Fort Lauderdale, Florida-based company that was a major producer and supplier of pepper spray. The payments were paid through a Florida company owned by Ward's wife. Direct close-range spray can cause more serious eye irritation by attacking the cornea with a concentrated stream of liquid (the so-called "hydraulic needle" effect). Some brands have addressed this problem by means of an elliptically cone-shaped spray pattern. Pepper spray has been associated with positional asphyxiation of individuals in police custody. There is much debate over the actual cause of death in these cases. There have been few controlled clinical studies of the human health effects of pepper spray marketed for police use, and those studies are contradictory. Some studies have found no harmful effects beyond the effects described above. Due to these studies and deaths, many law enforcement agencies have moved to include policies and training to prevent positional deaths. However, there are some scientific studies that argue the positional asphyxiation claim is a myth due to pinpoint pressure on a person. The study by two universities stressed that no pressure should be applied to the neck area. They concluded that the person's own weight is not scientifically enough to stop a person's breathing with the rest of their body supported.

Acute response

For individuals not previously exposed to OC effects, the general feelings after being sprayed can be best likened to being "set alight." The initial reaction, should the spray be directed at the face, is the involuntary closing of the eyes, an instant sensation of the restriction of the airways and the general feeling of sudden and intense, searing pain about the face, nose, and throat. This is due to irritation of mucous membranes. Many people experience fear and are disoriented due to sudden restriction of vision even though it is temporary. There is associated shortness of breath, although studies performed with asthmatics have not produced any asthma attacks in those individuals, and monitoring is still needed for the individuals after exposure. Police are trained to repeatedly instruct targets to breathe normally if they complain of difficulty, as the shock of the exposure can generate considerable panic as opposed to actual physical symptoms.


Capsaicin Capsaicin (8-methyl-''N''-vanillyl-6-nonenamide) is an active component of chili peppers, which are plants belonging to the genus ''Capsicum''. It is a chemical irritant for mammals, including humans, and produces a sensation of burning in any t ...
is not soluble in water, and even large volumes of water will not wash it off, only dilute it. In general, victims are encouraged to blink vigorously in order to encourage tears, which will help flush the irritant from the eyes. A study of five often-recommended treatments for skin pain (
Maalox Maalox was a brand of antacid owned by Sanofi. Their main product was a flavored liquid containing aluminium hydroxide and magnesium hydroxide, which acts to neutralize or reduce stomach acid, for the purpose of relieving the symptoms of indigestion ...
, 2%
lidocaine Lidocaine, also known as lignocaine and sold under the brand name Xylocaine among others, is a local anesthetic of the amino amide type. It is also used to treat ventricular tachycardia. When used for local anaesthesia or in nerve blocks, lidocai ...

baby shampoo Baby shampoo /ˈbā-bē/ /ʃæmˈpuː/ is a hair care product that is used for the removal of oils, dirt, skin particles, dandruff, environmental pollutants and other contaminant particles that gradually build up in hair; specially formulated for ...
, milk, or water) concluded that:
...there was no significant difference in pain relief provided by five different treatment regimens. Time after exposure appeared to be the best predictor for a decrease in pain...
There is no way to simply neutralize the effects of tear gas, but a person can be helped to minimize the effects. Move the affected person away from the source and to fresh air. Avoid rubbing the spray into the skin, thereby prolonging the burning sensation. In order to not spread the compound to other parts of the body, avoid touching affected areas. Rubbing the eyes repeatedly can damage the cornea, so do not touch or wipe eyes. There are wipes and sprays which some manufacturers claim will decontaminate someone having received a dose of pepper spray, but no trials proving this can be found. Many ambulance services and emergency departments carry saline to remove the spray. Some of the OC and CS will remain in the respiratory system, but a recovery of vision and the coordination of the eyes can be expected within 7 to 15 minutes. Some "triple-action" pepper sprays also contain "tear gas" (CS gas), which can be neutralized with sodium metabisulfite (Campden tablets), though it is not for use on a person. This is for area clean up only.


Pepper spray typically comes in canisters, which are often small enough to be carried or concealed weapon, concealed in a pocket or purse. Pepper spray can also be purchased concealed in items such as finger ring, rings. There are also Pepper-spray projectile, pepper spray projectiles available, which can be fired from a paintball gun or similar platform. It has been used for years against demonstrators and aggressive animals like bears. There are also many types such as foam, gel, foggers, and spray.


Pepper spray is banned for use in war by Article I.5 of the Chemical Weapons Convention, which bans the use of all
riot control#REDIRECT Riot control ...
agents in warfare whether death, lethal or less-than-lethal. Depending on the location, it may be legal to use for
self-defense Self-defense (self-defence in some varieties of English) is a countermeasure that involves defending the health and well-being of oneself from harm. The use of the right of self-defense as a legal justification for the use of force in times ...


* Nigeria: Assistant Police Commissioner stated that pepper sprays are illegal for civilians to possess. * South Africa: Pepper sprays are legal to own by civilians for self defence.


* Bangladesh: ** Bengal Police started using pepper spray to control opposition movement. * China: Forbidden for civilians, it is used only by law enforcement agencies. Less lethal sprays are legal. ** Hong Kong: Forbidden for civilians, it is legal or possess and use by only the members of Hong Kong Disciplined Services, Disciplined Services when on duty. *** Such devices are classified as "arms" under the "Laws of Hong Kong". Chap 238 ''Firearms and Ammunition Ordinance''. Without a valid license from the Hong Kong Police Force, it is a crime to possess and can result in a fine of $100,000 and imprisonment for up to 14 years. * India: Legal ** They are sold via government-approved companies after performing a background verification. * Indonesia: It is legal, but there are restrictions on its sale and possession. * Iran: Forbidden for civilians, it is used only by the police. * Israel: OC and CS spray cans may be purchased by any member of the public without restriction and carried in public. ** In the 1980s, a firearms license was required for doing so, but these sprays have since been deregulated. * Japan: There are no laws against possession or use, but using it could result in imprisonment, depending on the damage caused to the target. * Malaysia: Use and possession of pepper spray for self-defense are legal. * Mongolia: Possession and use for self-defense are legal, and it is freely available in stores. * Philippines: Possession and use for self-defense is legal, and it is freely available in stores. * Saudi Arabia: Use and possession of pepper spray for self-defense are legal. ** It is an offense to use pepper spray on anyone for reasons other than self-defense. * Singapore: Travellers are prohibited from bringing pepper spray into the country, and it is illegal for the public to possess it. * South Korea: Pepper sprays containing OC are legal. ** Requires a permit to distribute, own, carry pepper sprays containing pre-compressed gas or explosive propellent. ** Pepper sprays without any pre-compressed gas or explosive propellent are unrestricted. * Thailand: Use for self-defense is legal, and it is freely available in stores. ** Possession in a public place can be punished by confiscation and a fine. * Taiwan: Legal for self-defense, it is available in some shops. ** It is an offense to use pepper spray on anyone for reasons other than self-defense. * Vietnam: Forbidden for civilians and used only by the police.


* Austria: Pepper spray is classified as a self-defense device. * Belgium: Pepper spray is classified as a prohibited weapon. ** Possession is illegal for anyone other than police officers, police agents (assistant police officers), security officers of public transport companies, soldiers and customs officers to carry a capsicum spray. It's also authorised after obtaining permission from the Minister of the Interior (Belgium), Minister of Internal Affairs. * Gun politics in the Czech Republic, Czech Republic: Possession and carrying is legal. ** Police also encourage vulnerable groups like pensioners, children, and women to carry pepper spray. ** Carrying at public demonstrations and into court buildings is illegal (pepper spray as well as other weapons may be left with armed guard upon entry of a courthouse). * Denmark: As of January 1, 2019, pepper spray is legal to own and use for adults. **Pepper spray may only be stored and used within place of residence/living, and may not be carried and/or used in public without a specific permit to do so. **A permit for public carry and use of pepper spray can be issued to people with documented history of threats and/or stalking against them. **Use of pepper spray is subject to §13 of "''Straffeloven"'' which states that self-defense measures has to be carried out in a reasonable manner, thus defense against non-violent thieves may not involve pepper spray. Legal use of pepper spray generally requires that the defender is attacked with the risk of bodily harm. * Finland: Possession of pepper spray requires a license. ** Licenses are issued for defensive purposes and to individuals working jobs where such a device is needed such as the private security sector. *France: It is legal for anyone over the age of 18 to buy pepper spray in an armory or military surplus store. ** It is classified as a Category D Weapon in French law and if the aerosol contains more than , it is classed as an offensive weapon; possession in a public place can be punished by confiscation and a fine. *** However, if it contains less than , while still a Category 6 Weapon, it is not classed as a punishable offense for the purposes of the Weapons law, so if you are controlled, it will be confiscated with maybe a verbal warning given. * Germany: Pepper sprays labeled ''for the purpose of defense against animals'' may be owned and carried by all citizens regardless of age. Such sprays are not legally considered as weapon
Carrying it at (or on the way to and from) Demonstration (people), demonstrations may still be punished. ** Sprays that are not labelled "animal-defence spray" or do not bear the test mark of the (MPA, material testing institute) are classified as prohibited weapons. *** Justified use against humans as self-defense is allowed. ** CS sprays bearing a test mark of the MPA may be owned and carried by anyone over the age of 14.Ministerium des Inneren
on ''Weapon Laws'' (German).
* Greece: Such items are illegal. They will be confiscated and possession may result in detention and arrest. * Hungary: Such items are reserved for law enforcement (including civilian members of the auxiliary police). ** Civilians may carry canisters filled with maximum of any other
lachrymatory agent Tear gas, also known as a lachrymator agent or lachrymator (from the Latin ''lacrima'' meaning "tear"), sometimes colloquially known as "mace" after an early commercial aerosol, is a chemical weapon that stimulates the nerves of the lacrimal gl ...
. *** However, there is no restriction for pepper gas pistol cartridges. * Iceland: Possession of pepper spray is illegal for private citizens. ** Police officers carry pepper spray as part of their standard equipment. ** Members of the riot police use larger pepper-spray canisters than what is used by a normal police officer. * Republic of Ireland, Ireland: Possession of this spray by persons other the Garda Síochána (national police) is an offence under the Firearms and Offensive Weapons Act. * Italy: Any citizen over 16 years of age without a criminal record could possess, carry and purchase any OC-based compounds and personal defence devices that respond to the following criteria: ** Containing a payload not exceeding , with a percentage of Oleoresin Capsicum not exceeding 10% and a maximum concentration of
capsaicin Capsaicin (8-methyl-''N''-vanillyl-6-nonenamide) is an active component of chili peppers, which are plants belonging to the genus ''Capsicum''. It is a chemical irritant for mammals, including humans, and produces a sensation of burning in any t ...
and capsaicinoid substances not exceeding 2,5%; ** Containing no flammable, corrosive, toxic or carcinogenic substances, and no other aggressive chemical compound than OC itself; ** Being sealed when sold and featuring a safety device against accidental discharge; ** Featuring a range not exceeding . * Latvia: Pepper spray is classified as a self-defense device. ** It can be bought and carried by anyone over 16 years of age. ** Pepper spray handguns can be bought and carried without any license by anyone over 18. * Montenegro: It is legal for civilians over the age of 16 to buy, own and carry pepper spray but it is illegal to carry it in a way that it is shown to other people in public spaces or disturb people with it in any way. You are allowed to use it as a self-defense tool if needed * Netherlands: It is illegal for civilians to own and carry pepper spray. ** Only police officers trained in the specific use of pepper spray are allowed to carry and use it against civilians and animals. * Norway: It is illegal for civilians. ** Police officers are allowed to carry pepper spray as part of their standard equipment. * Poland: Called precisely in Polish Penal Code "a hand-held disabling gas thrower", sprays are not considered a weapon. ** They can be carried by anyone without further registration or permission. * Portugal: Civilians who do not have criminal records are allowed to get police permits to purchase from gun shops, carry, and use OC sprays with a maximum concentration of 5%. ** CS is considered a weapon and is not permitted. *** Police carry OC sprays of higher concentration. * Romania: Pepper spray is banned at sporting and cultural events, public transportation and entertainment locations (according to Penal Code 2012, art 372, (1), c). *
Russia Russia (russian: link=no, Россия, , ), or the Russian Federation, is a country spanning Eastern Europe and Northern Asia. It is the largest country in the world, covering and encompassing more than one-eighth of the Earth's inhabited l ...
: It is classified as a self-defense weapon and can be carried by anyone over 18. ** Use against humans is legal. *** OC is not the only legal agent used. CS, CR, 4-Nonanoylmorpholine, PAM (МПК), and (rarely) CN are also legal and highly popular. * Serbia: Pepper spray is legal under the new law as of 2016 and can be carried by anyone over the age of 16. Use against humans in self-defence is legal. * Slovakia: It is classified as a self-defense weapon. ** It is available to anyone over 18. ** The police recommend its use. * Spain: Approved pepper spray made with 5% CS is available to anyone older than 18 years. ** OC pepper spray, recently adopted for some civilian use (e.g., one of , with no registration DGSP-07-22-SDP, is approved by the Ministry of Health and Consumption). * Sweden: Requires weapons licence, essentially always illegal to carry in public or private. Issued as supplementary service weapon to police. * Switzerland: Pepper spray in Switzerland is subject to the Chemicals Legislation. It may only be distributed to buyers above 18 years of age and against ID evidence. Self-service is not permitted and the customer ought to be made aware of safe storage, use and disposal. The vendor needs to possess the "Know-how for the distribution of particularly hazardous chemicals". Potential mailing has to be shipped by registered courier with the remark "to addressee only". The products must be classified and labeled at least an irritant (Xi;R36/37). Regulations for aerosol packages need to be observed. Sprays with Greenhouse gas, greenhouse relevant propellants such as R134a (1,1,1,2-Tetrafluorethan) are banned. Spray products for self-defense with irritants such as CA, CS, CN, CR are considered as weapons in terms of the gun control law. The weapon purchase permit, as well as the weapon carrier permit, are required for the purchase of such weapons. In 2009, the Swiss Army introduced for the military personnel the ''irritant atomizer 2000'' (RSG-2000) and is introduced during watch functions. The military bearer permit is granted after passing the half-day training. *
United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain,Usage is mixed. The Guardian' and Telegraph' use Britain as a synonym for the United Kingdom. Some prefer to use Britain as shortha ...
: Pepper spray is illegal under Section 5(1)(b) of the Firearms Act 1968: "''A person commits an offence if [...] he has in his possession [...] any weapon of whatever description designed or adapted for the discharge of any noxious liquid, gas or other thing.''" ** Police officers are exempt from this law and permitted to carry pepper spray as part of their standard equipment.

North America


Pepper spray designed to be used against people is considered a prohibited weapon in Canada. The definition under regulation states "any device designed to be used for the purpose of injuring, immobilizing or otherwise incapacitating any person by the discharge therefrom of (a) tear gas, Mace or other gas, or (b) any liquid, spray, powder or other substance that is capable of injuring, immobilizing or otherwise incapacitating any person" is a prohibited weapon. Only law enforcement officers may legally carry or possess pepper spray labeled for use on persons. Any similar canister with the labels reading "dog spray" or "bear spray" is regulated under the ''Pest Control Products Act''—while legal to be carried by anyone, it is against the law if its use causes "a risk of imminent death or serious bodily harm to another person" or harming the environment and carries a penalty up to a fine of $500,000 and jail time of maximum 3 years. Carrying bear spray in public, without justification, may also lead to charges under the Criminal Code (Canada), Criminal Code.

United States

It is a federal offense to carry/ship pepper spray on a commercial airliner or possess it beyond the security metal detectors at the airport. State law and local ordinances regarding possession and use vary across the country. When pepper spray is used in the workplace, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, OSHA requires a pepper spray Safety data sheet, Safety Data Sheet (SDS) be available to all employees. Pepper spray can be legally purchased and carried in all 50 states. Some states regulate the maximum allowed strength of the pepper spray, age restriction, content and use. * California: As of January 1, 1996 and as a result of Assembly Bill 830 (Speier), the pepper spray and Mace programs are now deregulated. Consumers will no longer be required to have the training, and a certificate is not required to purchase or possess these items. Pepper spray and Mace are available through gun shops, sporting goods stores, and other business outlets. California Penal Code Section 12400–12460 govern pepper spray use in California. Container holding the defense spray must contain no more than net weight of aerosol spray. ** Certain individuals are still prohibited from possessing pepper spray, including minors under the age of 16, convicted felons, individuals convicted of certain drug offenses, individuals convicted of assault, and individuals convicted of misusing pepper spray. * Massachusetts: Before July 1, 2014, residents may purchase defense sprays only from licensed Firearms Dealers in that state, and must hold a valid Firearms Identification Card (FID) or License to Carry Firearms (LTC) to purchase or to possess outside of one's own private property. New legislations allow residents to purchase pepper spray without a Firearms Identification Card starting July 1. * Florida: Any pepper spray containing no more than of chemical can be carried in public openly or concealed without a permit. Furthermore, any such pepper spray is classified as "self-defense chemical spray" and therefore not considered a weapon under Florida law. * Michigan: Allows "reasonable use" of spray containing not more than 18% oleoresin capsicum to protect "a person or property under circumstances that would justify the person's use of physical force". It is illegal to distribute a "self-defense spray" to a person under 18 years of age. * New York (state), New York: Can be legally possessed by any person age 18 or over. Restricted to no more than 0.67%
capsaicin Capsaicin (8-methyl-''N''-vanillyl-6-nonenamide) is an active component of chili peppers, which are plants belonging to the genus ''Capsicum''. It is a chemical irritant for mammals, including humans, and produces a sensation of burning in any t ...
content. ** It must be purchased in person (i.e., cannot be purchased by mail-order or internet sale) either at a pharmacy or from a licensed firearm retailer (NY Penal Law 265.20 14) and the seller must keep a record of purchases. *** The use of pepper spray to prevent a public official from performing his/her official duties is a class-E felony. * New Jersey: Non-felons over the age of 18 can possess a small amount of pepper spray, with no more than three-quarters of of chemical substance. * Virginia: Code of Virginia § 18.2-312. Illegal use of tear gas, phosgene, and other gases. "If any person maliciously releases or cause or procure to be released in any private home, place of business or place of public gathering any tear gas, mustard gas, phosgene gas or other noxious or nauseating gases or mixtures of chemicals designed to, and capable of, producing vile or injurious or nauseating odors or gases, and bodily injury results to any person from such gas or odor, the offending person shall be guilty of a Class 3 felony. If such act be done unlawfully, but not maliciously, the offending person shall be guilty of a Class 6 felony. Nothing herein contained shall prevent the use of tear gas or other gases by police officers or other peace officers in the proper performance of their duties, or by any person or persons in the protection of the person, life or property." * Washington (state), Washington: Persons over 18 may carry personal-protection spray devices. ** Persons over age 14 may carry personal-protection spray devices with their legal guardian's consent. * Wisconsin: Tear gas is not permissible. ** By regulation, OC products with a maximum OC concentration of 10% and weight range of oleoresin of capsicum and inert ingredients of are authorized. Further, the product cannot be camouflaged and must have a safety feature designed to prevent accidental discharge. The units may not have an effective range of over and must have an effective range of . *** In addition there are certain labeling and packaging requirements, it must not be sold to anyone under 18 and the phone number of the manufacturer has to be on the label. The units must also be sold in sealed tamper-proof packages. *Texas law makes it legal for an individual to possess a small, commercially sold container of pepper spray for personal self-defense. However, Texas law otherwise makes it illegal to carry a "Chemical dispensing device".

South America

* Brazil: Classified as a weapon by Federal Act n° 3665/2000 (Regulation for Fiscalization of Controlled Products). Only law enforcement officers and private security agents with a recognized Less Lethal Weapons training certificate can carry it. * Colombia: Can be sold without any kind of restriction to anyone older than 14 years. ** Use has not been inducted on the law enforcement officer's arsenal.


* Australian Capital Territory: Pepper spray is a "prohibited weapon", making it an offence to possess or use it. * New South Wales: Possession of pepper spray by unauthorized persons is illegal, under schedule 1 of the Weapons Prohibition Act 1998, being classified as a "prohibited weapon". * Northern Territory: Prescribed by regulation to be a prohibited weapon under the Weapons Control Act. ** This legislation makes it an offense for someone without a permit, normally anyone who is not an officer of Police/Correctional Services/Customs/Defence, to carry a prohibited weapon. * Tasmania: Possession of pepper spray by unauthorized persons is illegal, under an amendment of the Police Offences Act 1935, being classified as an "offensive weapon". Likewise, possession of knives, batons, and any other instrument that may be considered, "Offensive Weapons" if they are possessed by an individual, in a Public Place, "Without lawful excuse", leading to confusion within the police force over what constitutes "lawful excuse". Self-defense as a lawful excuse to carry such items varies from one officer to the next. ** Pepper spray is commercially available without a license. Authority to possess and use Oleoresin Capsicum devices remains with Tasmania Police Officers (As part of general-issue operational equipment), and Tasmanian Justice Department (H.M. Prisons) Officers. * South Australia: in South Australia, possession of pepper spray without lawful excuse is illegal. * Western Australia: The possession of pepper spray by individuals for self-defense subject to a "reasonable excuse" test has been legal in Western Australia following the landmark Supreme Court decision in Hall v Collins [2003] WASCA 74 (4 April 2003).Anne Calverley, 'Judge clears use of pepper spray', ''The West Australian'', 28 March 2003, 1. * Victoria (Australia), Victoria: Schedule 3 of the ''Control of Weapons Regulations 2011'' designates "an article designed or adapted to discharge oleoresin capsicum spray" as a prohibited weapon. * Queensland: in Queensland, pepper spray is considered an offensive weapon and can not be used for self-defence.

New Zealand

* Classed as a restricted weapon. ** This means people would need a permit from the police to obtain or carry pepper spray. ** Front-line police officers have routinely carried pepper spray since 1997. New Zealand Prison Service made OC spray available for use in approved situations in 2013. ** New Zealand Defence Force Military Police are permitted to carry OC spray under a special agreement due to the nature of their duties. ** The Scoville scale, Scoville rating of these sprays are 500,000 (sabre MK9 HVS unit) and 2,000,000 (Sabre, cell buster fog delivery). This was as a result of excessive staff assaults and a two-year trial in ten prisons throughout the country.

Civilian use advocates

In June 2002, West Australian resident Rob Hall was convicted for using a canister of pepper spray to break up an altercation between two guests at his home in Midland. He was sentenced to a good behavior bond and granted a spent conviction order, which he appealed to the Supreme Court. Justice Christine Wheeler ruled in his favor, thereby legalizing pepper spray in the state on a case-by-case basis for those who are able to show a reasonable excuse. On 14 March 2012, a person dressed entirely in black entered the public gallery of the New South Wales Legislative Council and launched a paper plane into the air in the form of a petition to Police Minister Mike Gallacher calling on the government to allow civilians to carry capsicum spray.

See also

* Mace (spray) * Offensive weapon * Defensive weapon


External links

Are guns more effective than pepper spray in an Alaska bear attack?
{{DEFAULTSORT:Pepper Spray Chemical weapons Lachrymatory agents Riot control agents Self-defense