It's a public health issue

Granted, the health hazard posed by novelty contact lenses may not be the biggest issue facing the state of South Carolina. But despite Gov. Mark Sanford's objections, it's a legitimate issue for the General Assembly to address.

Lawmakers did just that this session by outlawing the sale of novelty contact lenses by unlicensed vendors. Unlicensed sellers of the lenses could be fined $5,000.

Sanford, however, believes buying and wearing novelty contacts should be a personal choice. In vetoing the bill, he said wearing them is foolish, but it should be up to the individual, not the government, to decide whether to do so.

On Thursday, lawmakers overrode the veto. We think they made the right decision.

For those who are unfamiliar with these contacts, they fit over the eye similar to a normal, corrective contact prescribed by licensed doctors. But a variety of over-the-counter novelty lenses are available that alter eye color of have images printed on them.

If optometrists or ophthalmologists want to allow their patients to wear novelty lenses, that's fine. But we think the state is performing a useful public health role in regulating the sale of objects that people stick on their eyeballs.

Granted, people who want to buy lenses with hearts or Mickey Mouse figures on them or lenses that make their eyes look like a cat's eyes can do so over the Internet. The new law doesn't regulate owning novelty lenses.

But at least lawmakers can prevent vendors in the state from selling them. And maybe some young teens' eyesight will be spared because they did.


State has a legitimate role in protecting the public from novelty lenses.