Ohio wants more regulation ink for piercing, tattoo shops


By Maggie Thurber | For Ohio Watchdog

TATTOO LICENSE: The Association of Body Art Professionals doesn’t like a pending bill that would require licenses for their members, so they’re working on their own version to help regulate their industry.

Three state representatives want a new board and licensing scheme to regulate Ohio businesses that do body modifications, including tattoos and piercings.

Laws regarding body modifications were updated with new regulations, effective in August. The nonprofit Association of Body Art Professionals supported the moves, but not the latest proposal.

“It’s a bad bill,” said Patrick McCarthy, ABAP president. “As an industry, we’re not going to stand behind that bill at all. It was written without the input of anyone in the industry.”

Republican Peter Beck of Mason and Democrat Zack Milkovich of Akron introduced House Bill 656 . Rep. Gerald Stebelton, R-Lancaster, is a co-sponsor.

The bill would establish a nine-member board of body modifications. Only three of the members must be body modification practitioners, and the board would only be required to meet twice a year, though other meetings would be allowed.

It would also create a licensing scheme and prohibit anyone from performing body modifications unless he or she gets a license. Practitioners would be required to have their place of business approved by a local health board. The bill also calls for regular inspections.

The cost of the license would be $150 each year.

The ABAP isn’t opposed to the concept of a governmental board and licensing. In fact, members are working on their own bill, which they hope to introduce within a year.

Their proposal would also include an appointed board, but it wants to be sure it requires more participation from people actually involved in the various body modification services. And it wants the board to meet more than twice a year — and not end up like Oregon.

“Oregon’s licensure program has hurt the entire industry because it’s so strict, and they’re so backed up with people who want to take their required licensing test,” McCarthy said.

Like other industry groups, ABAP believes regulations and licensing are inevitable.

“It’s going to happen whether we have input or not,” McCarthy said. “There are a number of states that require a licensure and that’s the way most states are going. Right now, the public is under the assumption that we are under a licensure when we’re not. There are lots of people out there who don’t know what they’re doing, and that’s hurting us as an industry.”

In crafting its legislation, ABAP gathered tattooists, piercers and cosmetic tattooists, as well as various government agencies and business groups to obtain input.

The group has included the Ohio Department of Health, with whom ABAP has a good working relationship. In fact, Ohio was the first state to allow industry representatives and ODH to conduct traveling workshops to make sure every local health inspector and industry member has the knowledge to comply with existing rules and regulations, McCarthy said.

McCarthy was involved in writing the first Ohio laws on body modification 18 years ago and participated in the recent revisions that took effect in August.

“There have been a lot of changes in our industry in a short period of time,” he said. “And not a single state has what I would consider a good law — they’re either too lax or too strict. I was told we were going to go slow on the new bill ,so I have hope that we’re going to do it right.”

McCarthy said the current approval process for a body modification business is extensive in terms of the environmental aspects of each studio, but “the actual individual knowledge of the artist is what (is) lacking.”

He said a huge problem within the industry is the home piercer and tattooist.

“We want to stop the bad results we see when people who haven’t had any training in sterile needles do this kind of work in their own home,” he said. “Those negative outcomes impact us. We, as an industry, don’t particularly care how you do the craft. We’re most interested in whether or not you know how to do the proper aseptic techniques in the setup and tear down in order to avoid contamination or infection.”

Why create a law?

“We can’t stop these bad practices on our own,” McCarthy added. “I wish that we could say we would regulate ourselves, but we’re not big enough to do it.”

McCarthy has been assured HB 656 won’t see any action before the end of the year and hopes the sponsors would join him in crafting new legislation, rather than re-introduce their version in the next General Assembly.

Beck and Milkovich did not return phone calls, so it’s unknown whether they will accept the offer to collaborate next year. Stebelton was term-limited and unable to seek re-election.