DC Bill: ‘Think Before You Ink’
Published: Friday, September 13, 2013
Updated: Friday, September 13, 2013 02:09
Fewer District residents may wake up with regrettable tattoos if a D.C. Department of Health proposal to institute a 24-hour tattoo waiting period becomes law.
The DOH regulations, introduced Sept. 6, would govern the body art industry, including safety regulations regarding body piercings in addition to tattoos.
The proposed regulation has not found support among industry professionals like Stacey Gear, a tattoo artist at Champion Tattoos, located at 719 8th St. SE.
“I can’t really comprehend how they would think that they could save people from what they’re perceiving as somebody making a mistake,” Gear said. “It’s just so absurd. It’s hard for me to even verbalize it.”
Bobby Rotten, a manager at D.C. Ink on U Street, located at 1203 U St. NW, echoed that opposition.
“I think it’s crazy,” Rotten said. “There is no actual reason for that. I can’t believe that it’s actually proposed.”
A Sept. 6 Washington Post website poll suggests that disapproval isn’t limited to those who stand to lose a profit. Among 968 respondents, 81 percent opposed the regulation, while only 19 percent supported it.
City officials say the proposal could prevent people from making impulsive decisions that they may regret later.
“We’re making sure when that decision is made that you’re in the right frame of mind, and you don’t wake up in the morning … saying, ‘Oh my God, what happened?’” DOH Spokeswoman Najma Roberts told The Washington Post.
Tattoo artists, however, said that they already take care to confirm that customers recognize the consequences of their decisions.
“We have our customers sign a release form so that they’re well aware of what they’re entering into, and we remind them that, yes, this is a permanent decision they’re making,” Gear said. “It’s no mystery.”
Gear added that reputable tattoo artists often go beyond the waiver’s requirements to make sure customers are happy with their decisions.
“If somebody walks in the door, and they say, ‘I want a tattoo, but I don’t know what I want,’ I tell them to go home and think about it because it’s a permanent mark,” Gear said.
Nevertheless, some think the 24-hour waiting period would be a step in the right direction, especially in preventing drunken mistakes.
“When I first heard about the proposal, I thought it was a good idea. I’ve heard multiple stories about drunken tattoo decisions,” Galen Hiltbrand (COL ’14), who does not have a tattoo, said. “That’s not the type of mental state that you want to be in when making such a permanent decision.”
Nick Barkley, shop manager at Tattoo Paradise, located at 2444 18th St., NW, said that the 24-hour waiting period would not solve the issue. According to Barkley, regret does not always come days or weeks later — it often takes decades before people regret the decision to get a tattoo.
“A lot of people get tattoos at 18 that they don’t regret until they’re 40 or 50 years old,” Barkley said. “Twenty-four hours isn’t going to do anything.”
Gear said that people who are thought to be intoxicated are denied service, an important issue when weighing the proposed waiting period.
The proposal includes other safety regulations, such as requiring all tattoo artists and body-piercers to receive hepatitis B vaccinations and to undergo biohazard training. The regulations would also implement stricter guidelines on the use of needles, inks, gloves and other equipment.
While Rotten agreed with the safety portions of the regulations, he said that the 24-hour wait period was inappropriate.
“There’s definitely a place for regulation. There are plenty of people out there who have no idea about cross-contamination or about how actually dangerous it is to get a tattoo,” Rotten said. “But you shouldn’t be able to regulate how or when to get something on your body. … There is no safety issue that is resolved by waiting for 24 hours.”
The professional community expressed concern about the possible precedent this would set for future laws and regulations.
“They are going to need you to sign waivers before you get that last slice of jumbo pizza, before you take that last shot and before you take home that girl at the bar,” Barkley said. “How far are you going to extend that?”
The proposal is open for public comment until Oct. 6. In the meantime, many body art professionals have organized to express their views.
“All my friends and I are going to proposals and board meetings to speak out against it,” Rotten said.
Some students thought that the District should have more pressing concerns.
“The D.C. government needs to focus on other things like nutrition, inequitable access and the unemployment rate, rather than honing in on what the youth may or may not do to their bodies,” Fahad Abdul (COL ’14), who does not have a tattoo, said.