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STATEMENT OF OSBY L. WEIR FOR THE METROPOLITAN WASHINGTON BOARD OF TRADE
BEFORE SUBCOMMITTEE No. 5, HOUSE DISTRICT COMMITTEE, AUGUST 14, 1967
Mr. Chairman and Gentlemen, I am Osby L. Weir, General Manager, Washington Area, Sears, Roebuck and Company. I appear here today as the Secretary of the Metropolitan Washington Board of Trade, to voice that organization's opposition to H.R. 595, H.R. 732, H.R. 1283 and H.R. 10075 also H.R. 12276 and H.R. 12297-all bills to amend the Optometry Law of the District of Columbia.
These bills, except for slight variations in phraseology and punctuation, are similar in effect. The stated purpose of these bills is to re-write and up-date the Optometry Law of the District of Columbia. This would be accomplished by the repeal of the existing provisions of the Optometry Law and the enactment of an entirely new law within the District.
At previous hearings the Medical profession, the Guild of Prescription Opticians of America, the Guild of Prescription Opticians of Washington, D.C., the National Association of Optometrists and Opticians, as well as the Metropolitan Washington Board of Trade have opposed the proposed re-writing of the Optometric Law on the grounds that it deprives the public of freedom of choice in the selection of optical aids, at considerable expense and no corresponding benefit.
The Metropolitan Washington Board of Trade directs its opposition to one particular effect of these proposals, if enacted.
The existing Optometric Law of the District of Columbia provides in Section 20
“That the provisions of this Act shall not apply
(b) To persons selling spectacles and (or) eyeglasses and who do not attempt either directly or indirectly to adapt them to the eye, and who do not practice or profess to practice optometry.” Bills H.R. 595, H.R. 1283, and H.R. 10075, on the contrary, not only eliminate this provision, but provide, in Section 8(a), subdivision (4).
"It shall be unlawful for any person * * * with the exception of nonprescription sunglasses or nonprescription protective eyewear, to sell or offer to sell to the public eyeglasses, spectacles, or lenses to fit or duplicate lenses,
without a written prescription from a licensed physician or optometrist.” (H.R. 732 has a similar provision, Section 8(a) (4), but requires that the prescription come from a physician or optometrist licensed to practice in the District of Columbia.)
POINT ONE. THE PROPOSAL TO ELIMINATE THE SALE OF READY-TO-WEAR READING
GLASSES IS DESIGNED BY ORGANIZED OPTOMETRY TO ELIMINATE COMPETITION
It seems quite illogical that men who seek to insure for themselves a "professional” status should consider magnifying spectacles a source of competition. The usual cry of “pro bono publico" has been raised by the American Optometric Association, sponsors of these bills. In order to maintain this position, they would have to show (1) that the sale of these glasses is injurious, or (2) the public was deceived, or (3) that the public could obtain better or equal service from them at lesser cost.
In none of these instances can they maintain their position. In fact, the contrary is true. The public's purchase of ready-to-wear reading glasses serves a great human cause. First, these simple ready-to-wear magnifiers in convenient frames are aids to old-aged vision. Second, the cost is nominal, from $1.50 to $3.95 per pair as against purchasing the same from an optometrist for five to ten times more. Third, there is authoritative medical testimony that they “cannot effect any change in your eyes, let alone ‘ruin them.'"
POIXT TWO. READY-TO-WEAR MAGNIFYING SPECTACLES PLAY AN IMPORTANT ROLE IN
THE COMFORT OF MANKIND
Middle-aged farsightedness is as natural as gray hair. With the advancing years, the eye gradually loses its powers of accommodation for near vision because the eye lens becomes progressively harder. From the age of forty on, most people just cannot seem to hold things far enough away to see them clearly.
Years of research have produced the simple answer for farsightedness. It is a pair of magnifying glasses for reading and close work. These magnifying lenses, in convenient frames, bring close objects into focus and enable you to see them clearly and easily. The cost is from one/tenth to one/fifth of what you would pay for a custom-made pair of prescription reading glasses.
POINT THREE. THESE GLASSES ARE SAFE TO WEAR
Many millions of pairs of these glasses have been produced, distributed and purchased in the United States without causing harm or injury to the eyes. If magnifying spectacles help a person to see better they have accomplished the necessary goal of all spectacles. Attached hereto and made a part hereof are resolutions by the Medical Society of New Jersey and the New Jersey Academy of Ophthalmology and Otolaryngology, wherein they have disapproved of the enactment of legislation which would have outlawed the sale of these ready-towear glasses even as the bills in the instant case propose to do. These are respectively marked, Exhibits A and B. Also attached hereto are exhibits C and D. POINT FOUR. THE MERCHANDISING AND WEARING OF THESE GLASSES IS APPROVED ET
In no State of the United States is the sale of these magnifying spectacles prohibited. Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York and Rhode Island, provide that the glasses may be sold if an optometrist is merely present at the place of sale. He is not required to participate in the sale, but to be available if guidance is needed.
Attached hereto is a statement prepared by the Counsel of the Metropolitan Washington Board of Trade showing the State statutory authorizations to sell ready-to-wear reading spectacles. (Exhibit D)
These glasses are and for many years have been freely sold in Maryland, the District of Columbia and Virginia. It is and has been the policy of the Board of Trade to seek and support uniform regulations in the Metropolitan ARea. The enactment of this proposed legislation eliminating the sale of ready-to-wear reading glasses would merely force residents of the District of Columbia to go into the two adjoining states to purchase their ready-to-wear reading glasses.
Thank you very much for this opportunity to present our views.
STATE STATUTORY AUTHORIZATIONS TO SELL READY-TO-WEAR READING SPECTACLES
ALABAMA: $ 209. "Nothing in this chapter shall be construed to applying to resident merchants who sell eye glasses or spectacles as merchandise in perma. nently established places of business * * *"
ALASKA: $ 4. * * * "Nothing in this act shall be construed to apply to the sale of * * * completely ready-made spectacles and eye glasses sold as merchandise only * * *"
ARIZONA: $ 32.1721. “This chapter shall not *** prohibit the sale of spet tacles and eye glasses as merchandise from a permanently established place of business."
ARKANSAS: $ 16. “Nothing in this Act * * * shall prohibit the sale of reads. made eyeglasses and spectacles when sold as merchandise at any established place of business, where no attempt is made to practice optometry.”
CALIFORNIA: $ 3043. “The provisions of this chapter do not prohibit the sale of *** complete ready to wear eyeglasses as merchandise by any person not holding himself out as competent to examine, test or prescribe for the human ese or its refractive errors."
DELAWARE: Chapter 1017 § 1017. "Nothing in this chapter shall be construed to prevent the sale of spectacles or eye glasses in the ordinary course of trade, provided no part of the Chapter is violated in making such sale."
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: $ 20. “That the provisions of this Act shall not apply * * * (b) To persons selling spectacles and (or) eyeglasses and who do not attempt either directly or indirectly to adapt them to the eye, and who do not practice or profess to practice optometry.”
FLORIDA: $ 463.16. “Nothing in this chapter shall be construed to prevent the sale of * * * ready-made nonprescription glasses."
GEORGIA: $ 84-1108. "Nothing in this Chapter shall be construed to prevent any person or persons selling glasses as articles of merchandise
IDAHO: $ 54-1515. "The following persons, firms and corporations are esempt * * * 3. Persons, firms and corporations who manufacture or deal in ere
glasses or spectacles in a store, shop or other permanently established place of business, and who neither practice nor attempt to practice optometry * * *.”
ILLINOIS: 8 4. "Nothing contained in this Act shall be construed to apply to * * * persons, firms and corporations who manufacture or deal in eye glasses or spectacles in a store, shop or other permanently established place of business, and who neither practice nor attempt to practice optometry.”
IOWA: $ 154.2 (1) Similar to the Illinois Optometric Law.
KENTUCKY: $ 320.200, subdivision (3). “* * * nothing in this Act relating to the practice of optometry shall be construed to limit or restrict, in any respect, the sale of completely assembled eye glasses or spectacles designed and used solely to magnify."
LOUISIANA: $ 1065. “The provisions of this Chapter shall not apply *** to retail dealers selling glasses as merchandise in their established places of business."
MARYLAND: $384. Similar to the Illinois Optometric Law.
MICHIGAN: $7(e) nor shall such provisions apply to prevent persons selling spectacles or eyeglasses as an article of merchandise and not trafficking or attempting to traffic upon assumed skill.”
MISSOURI: 8 336.120. (3) Similar to the Illinois Optometric Law.
NEW HAMPSHIRE: $ 12. “Persons excepted. Nothing in this chapter shall apply to * * * persons who neither practice nor profess to practice optometry, but who sell spectacles, eye-glasses or lenses * * * as merchandise from permanently located and established places of business."
NEW MEXICO: $ 67–7-14. Similar to District of Columbia Law.
NORTH CAROLINA: $ 90.127. "Nothing in this article shall be construed to * * * prohibit persons to sell spectacles, eyeglasses, or lenses as merchandise from permanently located and established places of business."
NORTH DAKOTA: $ 43–1329 “Nothing in this act shall prohibit the sale of ready-to-wear glasses equipped with convex-spherical lenses, nor sunglasses equipped with plano lenses nor industrial glasses or goggles with plano lenses used for industrial eye protection, when sold as merchandise at any established place of business and where the selection of the glasses is at the discretion of the purchaser."
OHIO: $ 4725.14. “Exemptions. * * * (B) To persons selling spectacles and eyeglasses who do not assume to adapt them to the eye, or neither practice nor profess to practice optometry.”
OKLAHOMA: $ 604-8 3. Similar to Ohio Optometric Law.
SOUTH CAROLINA: 8 56-1083. “Nothing in this chapter shall be construed to apply ***(b) to persons who sell as merchandise from a regular established place of business ready-made eye glasses or spectacles if such person shall not aid the purchaser in the fitting thereof."
SOUTH DAKOTA: Laws of 1957. Similar to North Dakota Optometric Law.
MISSISSIPPI: $ 8846. “The provisions of this chapter shall not apply to * * * merchants and druggists who are actually engaged in business in this state from selling and assisting purchasers in fitting spectacles and eyeglasses in their place of business at time of sale."
TENNESSEE: $ 63–816. Persons and practices exempt.-Nothing in this chapter shall be contrued (3) To prevent a retail resident merchant, in a permanently located place of business to sell ready-to-wear spectacles and eye-glasses as mer. chandise, without advertising other than the price marking on same, after they have been selected by the customer alone, without aid, in person from trays or other containers, containing such merchandise (and any other method of sale or delivery shall be construed as practicing optometry) * * *".
TEXAS: $ 4565e “Selling as Merchandise.-For the purpose of this Act the words 'Persons who sell spectacles and eye glasses as merchandise' as employed in Article 4566, shall be construed to mean merchants who do not practice optometry, or offer to practice optometry, but who sell spectacles or eye glasses as merchandise, after they have been selected by their customers alone without aid from the merchant, either in person or indirectly, * * * other than the particular and complete and ready-to-wear spectacles or eye glasses selected by
the customer in person from trays or other containers, containing such merchandise, and any other method of sale or delivery shall be construed as practicing optometry.”
UTAH: $ 4 subdivision (c) Similar to Illinois Optometric Law.
VIRGINIA: Article 1. $ 54-369. “* * * nor shall anything in Sec. 54-396, subsection (10) be construed to prohibit the sale of spectacles and eyeglasses, or any of such articles, as merchandise, from a regularly located and established place of business.”
WASHINGTON: § 18.53.040 Similar to District of Columbia Law. WEST VIRGINIA: $ 4. (d) Similar to District of Columbia Law. WISCONSIN: $ 153.02 (2) “This section shall not apply to * * * the sale of spectacles containing simple lenses of a plus power only at an established place of business incidental to other business conducted therein, without ad. vertising other than price marking on the spectacles, if no attempt is made to test the eyes. The term 'simple lens' shall not include bifocals."
WYOMING: $ 37.1802. Similar to California Optometric Law.
LEGISLATIVE BUILETIN TO KEYMEN AND COUNTY SOCIETY SECRETARIES For easy reference we present this compilation of the official positions of The Medical Society of New Jersey concerning the following bills relating to the practice of optometry:
8–209–To include under the scope of laws dealing with the practice of optometry any who offer and market for sale at retail to the general public spectacles or eyeglasses containing other than plano lenses. DISAPPROVED as unnecessary, because the vending of such glasses is not proper or exclusive to the practice of optometry, whose fundamental function (under law) is to examine for defects of vision and to prescribe corrective lens. This legislation would deny to the public access to low-cost eye-glasses of simple magnification, and thus is restrictive of free choice and is discriminatory.
8-210–To include in the practice of optometry any person who prescribes or dispenses to the general public spectacles or eye-glasses containing other than plano lenses. DISAPPROVED as unnecessary, because the vending of such glasses is not proper or exclusive to the practice of optometry, whose fundamental function (under law) is to examine for defects of vision and to prescribe corrective lens. This legislation would deny to the public access to low-cost eye glasses of simple magnification, and thus is restrictive of free choice and is discriminatory.
S-213—To provide that any person who practices ophthalmic dispensing in violation of the act governing regulation of the practice shall be liable to a penalty of not more than $200. DISAPPROVED, because it would deny to the public access to low-cost eyeglasses of simple magnification, and thus is restrictive of free choice and is discriminatory. To the Honorable Members of the New Jersey State Senate, Greetings:
Whereas the Academy of Ophthalmology and Otolaryngology of the State of New Jersey, representing, among others, the leading eye physicians practicing in the State of New Jersey, have examined the legislative proposals known as Senate Bills 209, 210, and 213, now before the Senate of the State of New Jersey ; and
Whereas each of these bills, though different in wording, is directed toward the same purpose ; and
Whereas Senate Bills 209, 210 and 213 are identical with Senate Bills 142, 333 and 336 of 1966, which were opposed by this organization; and
Whereas the alleged purpose of Senate Bills 209, 210, and 213, is to protect the eye health of the public by compelling the purchasers and wearers of ese glasses to buy only under prescription from an ophthalmologist or an optometrist, and thereby afford to such purchasers the protection of the discovery of eye disease and the diagnosis thereof, through the probibition of the sale of ready-to-wear glasses: Now, therefore, be it
Resolved, That the Academy of Ophthalmology and Otolaryngology of the State of New Jersey is opposed to the enactment of Senate Bills 209, 210 and 213 for the reasons:
1. Such legislation is unnecessary for the protection of the public health;
2. Such legislation will fail to accomplish its stated purpose in that optometrists are neither authorized by law nor qualified by education to administer medicine, or diagnose diseases of the eye;
3. Although the New Jersey Academy of Ophthalmology and Otolaryngology does not recommend the purchase of ready-to-wear reading glasses, such legislation would deprive the public of the right to avail itself of cheap and harmless magnifying aids to assist in reading without the expense of eye
examination by an ophthalmologist or optometrist. And, be it further resolved, That the Senate of the State of New Jersey is respectfully requested to reject the enactment of each of these bills.
In Witness Whereof the Academy of Ophthalmology and Otolaryngology of the State of New Jersey has caused this Resolution to be signed by its SecretaryTreasurer this 5th day of February, 1967.
John SCILLIERI, M.D.,
The following statement was made by Arthur C. Unsworth, M.D., before a Joint Committee of the Senate and House of Representatives of the State of Connecticut. This was in opposition to a bill introduced by the optometrists to outlaw the sale of ready-to-wear magnifying spectacles. It will be noted that
Dr. Unsworth is Senior Staff Member of the Hartford Hospital, a member of i the American Medical Association, the American College of Surgeons, and has received many other honors. Particular attention is called to his statement
"It is the optometric group which has proposed this legislation, for which I believe the public good is not the real purpose of bill 984. It is an economic measure to bring the merchandising of all appliances relating to vision under their control.
"As a person becomes older the accommodative power of the eye is less elastic and one's arms are just not long enough to read the telephone book and the newspaper. I do not believe that the public should be denied the right to go to a store and pick out a cheap pair of magnifying glasses to enable him to read. The public should not be compelled to pay for an examination by an eye specialist and then buy an expensive pair of reading glasses if he can do it just as well at a fraction of the cost by picking out a readymade pair of glasses which suit him. If in trying on glasses he finds that his vision is not satisfactorily corrected he can seek medical eye examination, because the optometrist is not qualified to diagnose an eye disease anyway.
"I might add that it is not true that the wearing of the wrong pair of glasses will permanently impair vision or produce a disease of the eye or
cause blindness." The same statement is borne out by Derrick Vail, M.D., who is the head of the Department of Ophthalmology at Northwestern University Medical School and Editor-in-Chief of the American Journal of Ophthalmology. During the war he was Senior Consultant in Ophthalmology to the United States Army in the European Theater of Operations. He has written a book entitled “THE TRUTH ABOUT YOUR EYES," a Medical Book for the Layman, in which he says, among other things
“But the wearing of wrong glasses will not lead to any organic (anatomical) change in any part of the eye. It will not produce any permanent diseased condition. These dogmatic statements are based on the daily experience of many ophthalmologists. The fallacy of the statement that 'your eyes can be ruined if your glasses are wrong,' used as scare-head advertising, is a very common one. Don't believe it for one minute. Wrong glasses can blur your vision, make your eyes uncomfortable, bother you in many ways, such as causing burning and irritation of the lid margins, but they cannot effect
any change in your eyes, let alone ‘ruin them'.” (Page 54). Mr. Weir. Thank you, sir.
Our primary objection is based on the ground that this bill does deprive the public of freedom of choice in the selection of optical aids at considerable expense and, in our opinion, no corresponding benefit.
There is no state in the union that prohibits the sale of such glasses, that is, eyeglasses, magnifying glasses put in a frame.
We base this on four points:
One, the proposal to eliminate the sale of ready-to-wear reading glasses so designed by organized optometry to eliminate competition.