At the European Sunglass Association's (ESA) annual conference, which took place near Athens on June 1 and 2, one major emphasis was the need to educate Europeans on protecting their eyes from the harmful blue and ultra-violet rays of the sun, as an estimated 36 percent of Europeans are not doing enough to shield themselves, according to ESA.

One pressing question was how to communicate the importance of eye protection from the sun to consumers. A proposed idea was a kind of numbering system that would assign different digits to mark the degree of sun protection of a specific pair of sunglasses, something akin to what is done with suntan lotions.

The aim is to make a clear distinction between sophisticated lenses that block harmful UV or ?blue light? rays and the multitude of sunglasses, frequently sold at newsstands or gas stations.

The ESA currently counts 85-90 members, and would like to grow indefinitely. It is recruiting members in as many countries as possible to represent the industry locally, and possibly to offer training courses for opticians, as it is already is doing in Germany.

Meanwhile, the ESA has been doing its own form of lobbying in Brussels, with the help of a former health minister from London, presenting information on the damaging effects of sunlight on the eyes to the relevant authorities. Aside from setting standards for sunglass protection, the ESA is seeking to be recognized as the official sunglass body of the European Union. This would essentially give it a more authoritative voice.

At its next meeting, which will take place in connection with the SILMO fair in Paris next October, ESA will release a study on the sunglass market in the five major European countries and in other markets in the other continents. The association is hiring independent researchers for the study, which will cover price segmentation and the sunglass market in general.