As the use of dangerous, non-prescription decorative contact lenses continues to increase in popularity, the American Academy of Ophthalmology's campaign to caution consumers of the health risks associated with these illegal devices has been recognized by leading media relations trade publication Bulldog Reporter with the Gold-Level Bulldog Award for the Best Not-for-Profit/Association/Government Campaign. The Bulldog Awards honor the best media relations campaigns in the industry as judged by journalists, bloggers and public relations critics.
Despite a 2005 federal law that classifies all contact lenses as medical devices and restricts their distribution to licensed eye care professionals, decorative contacts remain widely available on the Internet and in stores. As a result, consumers – particularly teens and young adults – continue to sustain serious, sight-stealing eye injuries and infections due to improper fit and care of these illicit products. To raise awareness of these risks, the Academy's public relations team developed and executed a Halloween-themed campaign called, "Want Scary Eyes? The Dangers of Decorative Contact Lenses." You can access the video at this link.
Here’s the scary thing. The AAO’s informative video is competing with public relations efforts by manufacturers of decorative contact lenses. For example, on the YouTube page where the AAO’s video appears, there is a column of videos about contacts on the right side. Guess what we found. A how-to video. The producer calls it “How to: Put [sic] in Colored Contacts.” It could have been subtitled “How to Injure Your Eyes.” What is more enticing to a teenager?