South Dakota could ban nonprescription contact lensesSouth Dakota's House Health Committee voted unanimously today to endorse a bill that would ban the sale of contact lenses without a prescription. The measure, which next goes to the full South Dakota House, has already been passed by the Senate.
By: Chet Brokaw, Associated Press
PIERRE, S.D. — South Dakota residents who want contact lenses to make their brown eyes blue may soon need a prescription.
The House Health Committee voted unanimously today to endorse a bill that would ban the sale of contact lenses without a prescription. The measure, which next goes to the full South Dakota House, has already been passed by the Senate.
Optometrist Michael Bartlett of Pierre said at least a few people have developed eye infections and other serious problems after buying nonprescription contact lenses in convenience stores or novelty shops in Sioux Falls and Rapid City.
“These are things that can permanently damage the cornea and affect long-term vision,” said Bartlett, who is also president of the South Dakota Board of Examiners in Optometry.
Contact lenses should be worn only by people who have obtained prescriptions from optometrists or ophthalmologists, Bartlett said. Licensed eye doctors make sure contact lenses fit properly, make the right vision correction and are not causing any problems, he said.
The typical customer for nonprescription contact lenses is a teenage girl who wants to make “her blue eyes bluer” or change the color entirely, Bartlett said.
No one spoke against the bill during today’s committee hearing.
Bartlett said a federal law regulates decorative contact lenses as medical devices that can sold only with prescriptions, but federal authorities have done little to prevent nonprescription sales for cosmetic purposes.
The proposal to put a ban on the nonprescription sale of contact lenses in South Dakota would allow state’s attorneys and the state Board of Examiners in Optometry to stop stores from selling those lenses, Bartlett said.
Bartlett said he is not promoting the bill to prevent stores from competing with eye doctors, but instead wants to prevent people from damaging their eyes by wearing nonprescription lenses.
Committee members said the measure could prevent many people from harming their eyes.
“This is one of those protective bills that could have some long-lasting good effects across the state, said Rep. Carol Pitts, R-Brookings, chairman of the committee.