Tattoo artists and body piercers in Ohio may soon require a state license

Professional tattoo and body piercing artists would face statewide training standards and pay a $250 annual licensing fee, if a proposal embedded in the state budget bill becomes law.

Ohio Department of Health spokesman J.C. Benton said health officials have been advocating for the changes for several years as more Ohioans decide to get inked or pierced.

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“There has been an extreme growth in the amount of people receiving tattoos and piercings. We want to make sure it is as safe as possible,” he said.

Artists would be added to a state registry that indicates they have undergone training on topics such as blood borne pathogens and CPR and demonstrated competency in the field. Training regulations are already in place but enforced by local health departments.

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Benton said the push for statewide licensing and registration comes with an explosion of reality TV tattoo shows and online tips for throwing tattoo parties at home.

Currently, tattoo businesses register with county health departments and there are not uniform training standards statewide.

Pew Research Center reports that nearly 40% of people born after 1980 have a tattoo and one in four have a piercing in a place other than an earlobe.

The regulations would also cover the practice of “microblading” — semi-permanent tattooing eyebrows to make them look more full or sculpted.

Ohio has about 700 tattoo and piercing businesses with roughly 2,000 artists. The $500,000 generated by the licensing fee would be used to run the registry and enforce regulations.

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The regulation would not cover ear piercing services that use piercing guns.

Tattooing and piercing under age 18 would continue to require parental consent.

The National Conference of State Legislatures reported this year that states are struggling to keep pace with new art forms to make sure the procedures are done in a safe manner.

Tattoos have been applied to bodies for thousands of years but there are risks such as allergic reactions, skin infections and blood borne diseases — particularly if the shop or artist doesn’t follow good practices such as thorough hand washing and wearing gloves, sterilizing equipment, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Reaction from local tattoo artists

Evan Butler, a tattoo artist at RocArt in Kettering says the state must be in bad financial shape to be targeting tattoo artists.

“Ohio has a lot of financial problems right now and if they’re coming after us for money … then we’re in more trouble as Ohioans than we realize,” he said.

Justin “Munkey” Lee, also at RocArt, says the $250 annual fee is too high.

“Most people that are artists, they’re struggling,” he said. “That’s asking a lot, I feel like, for a lot of tattooers.”

Lee did say, however, that a state license could bring more legitimacy to the profession. He says he gets a lot of questions from customers about whether there is a requirement for a license.

“People are surprised when I say no there really isn’t,” he said.

Dan Suffoletto with Public Health Dayton and Montgomery County says a state licensing system would help regulate and track the industry.

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