Consumers who wear eyeglasses - more than half the nation's population - would save a substantial amount of money if restrictions prohibiting the advertising of retail prices were lifted, a staff report to the Federal Trade Commission says.

The report recommends that the commission issue rules which would overturn state laws which prohibit eyeglasses advertising and eliminate the codes of ethics of private professional associations which place restrictions on advertising.

The commission staff also recommended that the agency act to require that consumers who undergo eye examinations be given copies of their eyeglass prescriptions without having to pay an additional charge.

Currently, price advertising of ophthalmic goods and services is totally prohibited in 19 states. In 26 others, including Virginia, ophthalmic advertising is restricted to some degree. In the District of Columbia and the remaining five states, including Maryland, there are no legal restraints on advertising although there are restrictions imposed by some state professional associations.

Because of the restrictions on advertising, consumers often are not aware that the prices for the same pair of glasses may vary as much as 200 to 300 per cent and therefore may be spending more than they need to, the staff concluded. In addition, the evidence suggests that some consumers - the poor and those in minority groups - are doing without needed corrective lenses because of what they perceive to be high prices, the staff said.

If more information was available to them through advertising, they might find glasses available at prices they could afford, the report notes.

The Staff said evidence presented during the agency's hearings on the proposed rules that prices in states which restrict advertising are significantly higher than in the jurisdictions with fewer restrictions.