EDISON – With Halloween fast-approaching, Senator Barbara Buono urged consideration in the State Senate of a bill to protect consumers from the health risks associated with using non-prescription contact lenses, and warned parents of the dangers associated with using these contacts as a costume accessory.
“Plano lenses, which are increasingly popular with teenagers during Halloween, are non-prescription contacts used solely to change the color or appearance of one’s eyes,” said Senator Buono, D-Middlesex. “However, considering the only requisite to purchase these lenses is a valid credit card number, many teenagers and other consumers have suffered vision impairment, blindness, corneal ulcers, conjunctivitis, and allergic reactions, caused by this unregulated novelty.
“Under the legislation, contact lenses could not be sold in New Jersey without proper licensure from a State regulatory board,” said Senator Buono. “This will crack down on unscrupulous vendors selling unsafe products, as well as ensure that contacts are fitted properly by accredited healthcare professionals, to cut down on the potential for serious eye injury.”
The legislation, sponsored by Senator Buono in the State Senate, and Assemblymen Patrick J. Diegnan and Peter Barnes in the General Assembly, would effectively prohibit the dispensing of contact lenses without proper licensure in the State of New Jersey. While licensure is presently required to dispense contact lenses, under current law, a proper enforcement structure does not exist. The legislators’ measure would assign criminal penalties, , imposing up to 18 months in prison and a $10,000 fine for violation of the bill. Finally, the bill clarifies that plano/non-corrective contact lenses cannot be distributed without a license.
“When Assemblymen Diegnan and Barnes brought this before the full Assembly, they received unanimous support, because, regardless of partisan affiliation, this bill makes safety of our kids a priority,” said Senator Buono. “When the Senate reconvenes after the election, I will push this as a priority, but in the meantime, parents should know the dangers of plano lenses and just say no to a costume accessory which could leave their kids permanently disabled.”
Recently, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released consumer protection warnings regarding plano lenses. They recommended that plano lenses be available only by prescription, or that consumers be fitted for non-prescription lenses by a trained healthcare professional. However, the FDA still regulates plano lenses as a cosmetic, and as such, is subject to much less scrutiny than other products.
The identical Assembly bill, A-3945, was unanimously approved by the Assembly in June. Senator Buono’s bill, S-2681, is pending consideration by the Senate Commerce Committee.