Laser Pointer Prohibition – Improving Safety or Driving Misclassification?

By Trevor Wheatley

It is well known that since 2008 Australia has had some of the world’s most restrictive laws regarding the possession and importation of “laser pointers” with powers exceeding 1 mW. Following the purchase of a laser pointer that was misrepresented as legal in Australia, the question as to whether this strict legislation has actually improved safety concerning laser pointers is addressed. The legislation has been in effect for four years now, so one would expect that the ripples of change will have settled sufficiently that comparisons of pre and post implementation can be made.  The lasers considered were identified by the simple online search “laser pointer 1mw,” as this would reasonably be a typical approach taken by a general consumer aware of the legislation wishing to purchase such a device. The paper presents the outcomes of the analysis of some 40 plus laser pointers purchased in Australia from local and International Internet suppliers focusing on parameters such as quoted power versus measured power, correct representation in advertising and adherence to laser standards. Additionally, the paper draws safety insights by considering low cost lasers as accessible a wider market including children. Finally, it considers whether there has been a reduction in the aviation incidents that were the main catalyst for the legislation.  Interesting conclusions are drawn with respect post legislation availability, misrepresentation in advertising and classification such that one could argue a detrimental impact on general safety in these cases.