Body piercing and tattoo shops would need a state license and be subject to statewide health regulations, under legislation being considered by lawmakers in an attempt to prevent the contraction of blood-borne diseases.
Currently, body piercing and tattooing is an unlicensed profession and there are no statewide regulations imposed on businesses, according to Rep. Bruce Ayers, a Quincy Democrat who filed the legislation (H 1889).
All body art, including piercing and tattoos, is regulated at the local level, according to a spokeswoman for the Department of Public Health. Some communities have passed local ordinances regulating body piercing and tattoos, while others have not.
“We are not trying to prohibit or prevent anyone from getting their body pierced,” Ayers said during a committee hearing Tuesday.
He said his legislation would make sure the procedures are done in a clean, safe place to protect people. Without regulations, people who get their body pierced are at risk for blood-borne diseases such as Hepatitis B and C, HIV, tuberculosis, mouth and gum diseases, or allergic reactions, Ayers said.
In 2000, a state court deemed body art to be constitutionally protected freedom of expression, overturning a 38-year-old state ban.
After the ruling, DPH crafted model regulations for tattoos and body piercing that local boards of health could adopt, but without a state law municipalities were not bound to pass any regulations, or could adopt rules that differ from neighboring communities.
Many local officials do not think about the need for regulation until a shop opens in their town, according Sen. John Keenan (D-Quincy), co-chair of the Public Health Committee.
Asked if he knew of any problems, Keenan said he sees the potential for a problem. He said most piercing businesses would not object to regulations.
“Most people who do it and do it the right way are generally not concerned about regulations,” Keenan said after the hearing.
Shops that do not follow proper health standards give others a bad reputation and reason for concern, Keenan said.
Ayers said he became aware of a lack of regulations several years ago when a business opened in North Quincy, and the Quincy City Council received calls from concerned parents. Ayers’ legislation uses the ordinance crafted by Quincy officials as a model for statewide regulations.
Ayers said he has heard “terrible” stories about young people getting infections from piercings, and not telling their parents because they did not ask for their permission. Anyone under 18 years old must have parental consent for piercing – something that is not always enforced, according to Ayers. The legislation would enforce parental consent and a client’s release form acknowledgement.
Also under the legislation, tattoo artists and body piercing professionals would be required to undergo education and training, as well as mandatory apprenticeship programs.
Those who would be exempt from the legislation include physicians who perform body art as part of patient treatment in a medically accepted manner, and individuals who pierce an earlobe with a pre-sterilizing, single-use stud and clasp ear piercing system without the use of a piercing gun.
Lawmakers on the Public Health Committee recommended similar legislation in last session and it failed to advance in the House and Senate.