My wife recently bought me one of these new green laser pointers from ThinkGeek. She was in a real hurry to get it and, when I asked her why, she indicated that she expected that they would be banned soon.
At the time, I thought she was overreacting to the reports about lasers and airline pilots, but this article makes me think she might be right after all, despite my own suspicion that it would take extraordinary effort to actually “hit” one’s target with such a device: Laser Pointer Abuse Threatens Air Safety [pdf]
The government does not regulate sales of lasers, and no laws restrict their use, though laser pointers have been banned from many public places, such as sports arenas.
The Food and Drug Administration regulates the manufacture of laser products and rates them in four categories based on the power of the beam. Beams in CD and DVD players are in category 1, the lowest. Laser pointers are in category 3, and industrial laser equipment is in category 4.
What’s changed is the availability of powerful laser pointers. About a dozen years ago, a pointer with a red beam sold for about $600. Today, consumers can get a similar one for a key chain for $3.95 — batteries included.
The popularity of red laser pointers is now being overtaken by green pointers, which are visible over a much longer range.
[...] But just as red lasers were used by drug dealers to harass police helicopters and by sports fanatics to distract basketball players taking free throws, green ones have been put to ill use. And with their longer range, experts say, green lasers pose a real danger because they can render pilots temporarily blind.
[...] But the controversy hasn’t hurt business. In fact, John Acres, whose company, Bigha, sold the laser that was pointed at the plane in Teterboro, said the attention has brought in new customers.
“We’ve got more orders. We are sold out,” said Acres, whose company is in Corvallis, Ore. “The whole industry has shot up because of this.”