How should city government handle proposed bans on tattoo and piercing shops due to health risks and non-regulation, and the non-inclusion of ear piercing establishments in these bans?  
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leader and webmaster of the Young Modders Alliance.

IAM Page: freakshow54

I think that the idea of any government ban on tattooing or piercing shops for any reason is completely absurd! This policing of thought and expression simply can't be permitted. If the government is worried about health risks, impose standards which must be met for sterilization and cross-contamination procedures. Require the artists to pass a Red Cross course in first aid. Don't eliminate piercing and tattooing shops completely, which will only make the health risks greater.

In regulating body modification to the point that these activities are illegal, we allow the hacks, the people who cause the government to worry about health risks, to flourish. The people who want to be pierced and tattooed will seek out the modifications regardless of their legality. These people will only be able to find people by word of mouth, and won't have much choice as to who they go to. They will likely be submitting themselves to low quality work, and a very risky situation health-wise.

If the government provides the proper regulation, we can guarantee that everyone will get, at the very least, a safe modification. That's the worst case scenario (providing the government applies proper regulations, nothing more nothing less) that I just mentioned. Much better than that, there is also a possibility that the stricter regulations will drive out the artists that, for so long, have been running an unsafe practice.

As far as not including ear piercing establishments, this always shocks me. This definition in current Tennessee state law that always comes to mind:

"Body piercing" means the piercing of any part of the body for compensation by someone, other than a physician licensed under Title 63, who utilizes a needle or other instrument for the purpose of inserting an object into the body for non- medical purposes; body piercing includes ear piercing, except when the ear piercing procedure is performed with an ear piercing gun.
I don't understand the logic that says if you pierce with a piercing gun, you don't have to pay attention to the laws regarding piercings performed with a needle. The same regulations need to be taken for piercing guns as all other piercing tools. There is very little regulation regarding ear piercing establishments. There is nothing to say that they are not allowed to pierce areas of the body other than ear lobes. No laws saying that they can't perform navel piercings with their piercing guns.

I think regulation in the modification industry is something that is needed, but it would be far too easy for the government to go overboard with it. I think there should be strict laws regarding sterilization and the like, but any more than that, and it starts to infringe on self expression. In order to keep it from going to far, we will probably have to work alongside our government to create the laws appropriately. If the proper regulations are put into place, we can only stand to benefit from them.

former staff member of BME's QOD, moderator of the BME mailing list, apprentice at Stainless Studios in Toronto. Interviewed on Modified Mind.

IAM Page: aesthete

This has always been such a loaded, controversial topic. Just yesterday, a 14 year old girl came into the shop and asked to have her navel pierced. We said no, for various reasons, including that it is simply shop policy, and we're not willing to bend the rules. She left and returned a few minutes later with her mother, who was parking her car at the time. The girl's mother came charging up the steps, and demanded that her daughter have her navel pierced. Again, we refused. I went into detail about why we do not feel right about piercing a 14 year old's navel for many reasons. Her reply was something along the lines of "but I'm her mother!" I had to explain to her why that doesn't mean anything, after which she became visibly angry and she, her daughter and daughter's friend turned toward the door to leave. As they were leaving, the girl said "It's okay, my mom owns a piercing store. I'll get her to do it."

Of course, this was the stupidest thing I'd heard all day. If her mother was so knowledgeable, why wouldn't she have had it pierced by her in the first place? Well, because her mother apparently owns a store where piercing is done with guns. She knew enough initially to not pierce her daughter's navel with a gun, but apparently it's okay now, since we wouldn't pierce her. So this girl is probably now running around town with a mangled navel because of this. That's the best sort of revenge we can have!

Why is this relevant? Because as the industry changes phases yet again, more and more people are able to spot bad work. This is usually quite an obvious thing. And where does most of this bad work come from? Bad shops, of course. Shops which could care less about their customers, and would rather scrimp on supplies, education and skill in order to turn bigger and bigger profits. This hurts good shops because a good shop literally can't afford to pierce a navel for $30, whereas a dodgy shop can, considering all of the price wars going on right now. It really is buyer beware these days.

As far as ear piercing guns being banned, we are actually farther from this than you think. The gun piercers have a very powerful team of lawyers behind them (why does this seem funny to me?) who threaten to sue anybody who tries to ban piercing guns. Very slowly, the tides are turning. Perhaps in our lifetimes, we'll see this change. The fact is, you can't ban guns unless there's enough evidence that they cause harm, which to my knowledge, nobody has produced yet. Unfortunately, it would really only take a few major mistakes on the part of professional body piercers to send the industry crumbling. Maybe I'm just paranoid, but I've learned what it is the average consumer really wants, and responsibility and permanence usually aren't on their list.

In an ideal world, piercing shops would indeed be regulated. This would simply weed out the bad seeds. If you're running a clean shop, all you have to do is keep it that way. It's not such a big deal. As a consumer, I feel better when I know that the company I am buying from is accountable and has minimum quality standards. I also know that the majority of customers at a piercing or tattoo shop couldn't care less about either. It's going to take more than the people inside the industry to raise their voices: people from the outside need to become involved, to make their voices heard. Over time, I think that (mostly) responsible regulation will happen.

Lastly, I'll offer a few words of advice from my humble throne: Consumers, beware! As most states or provinces do not have minimum quality standards, it is up to you to decide for yourself if you trust your body artist. Ask to see a portfolio. If the person gives you the creeps or is rude in any way, leave! For body artists: There's no reason to not be aware of what is going on around you these days. We are all feeling the pinch of competition, but that doesn't mean you have to pander to the lowest common denominator. Contact your local board of health to find out what laws or regulations apply to you. Customers will eventually be demanding to know these things. Educate yourself and you won't let your customers down or lose your reputation.

It's about time for regulation of the industry. I welcome it.

former staff member of BME's QOD, rec.arts.bodyart RABbit, helped host 2001 RABcon, member of Try This At Home -- a new Philadelphia-based suspension/pull group.

IAM Page: saram

Whenever I hear about proposed bans, I think that they are motivated by the negative image of tattoo and piercing shops at least as much as they are by health issues. Considering that the governmental officials of most cities are usually older, conservative, and unmodified, I imagine that their reasons for banning studios are because they are seen as something very "unsavory" within a community. This is rationalized with arguments about health, safety, exposing minors to pornography, etc. These issues can be governmentally regulated under existing laws, whereas sensibilities alone cannot. There is certainly a need for wider acceptance and positive image, as this might help officials (and citizens) to be more comfortable with the presence of local studios.

Frankly, there are many shops out there that most mod enthusiasts would consider "unsavory." Body modification does carry many health risks, and so practitioners and studios should be clean and safe. For this reason, I feel that local governments should create minimum health regulations for studios. They do it for restaurants and other establishments, so why not for tattoo and piercing shops? Health legislation for body modification could be very valuable, without putting extraordinary strain on the shops or the regulating body. Paperwork and annual inspections could relieve many basic health concerns. I see nothing wrong with the city requiring every shop to have a regularly tested autoclave and other precautions, and every practitioner to have first aid, bloodborne pathogens, CPR, and other basic health training. To me, these are minimum requirements for operating a safe shop. No governmental body can subjectively assess the quality of work at a shop, but they can create health standards. With the institution of such policies, the health arguments behind a ban are ineffective.

I also see a great need for research on piercing guns and the operations of "ear piercing establishments." I think that once the unsanitary, dangerous nature of guns is shown, the lobbying power of their industry will be reduced and they will get fewer special rights. A few medical studies have discussed the potential (or instances) of disease transmission through ear piercing guns, and the microspray of blood which is distributed on the gun when it is used. But this research needs to be increased and publicized. With enough pressure from the scientific and medical communities, health departments would be forced to regulate or ban non-disposable guns. The public image of piercing guns could also be damaged through this research, decreasing social acceptability. Widespread education about the advantages of needles over guns would also promote the downfall of piercing guns.

All in all, I think very few cities have seen a total ban on tattoo and piercing shops as the answer to their concerns. Throughout history, prohibition of various things has generally been problematic. Banning something does not make it go away, and simply creates a reason for illegal, dangerous versions of it. If a city bans studios, it punishes the safe and honest practitioners and benefits those who would prefer to operate without business licenses, taxes, health precautions, etc. It creates a dangerous situation for people who want to get tattoos and piercings, but do not know where to find a good studio (or a studio at all). I would much rather see regulations in place, and more cities seem to be leaning towards these.

mod enthusiast, involved with the Om Summer Solstice Festival.

IAM Page: Flip

I think that there is great potential for municipal governments and the bodyart industry to work together that is going to waste, and these proposed bans are a symptom of this.

Within the industry we have certain standards that are universally accepted as required. It is probably true that in some cities, perhaps more so in less urbanized areas, that some shops don't live up to these standards. Currently, there is nothing that can be done to force these shops to improve, as there are no legal standards set. I believe that municipal governments could work towards enforcing these standards.

The difficulty in this is that the standards must be decided from within the bodyart industry, at least in part. Ideally, a municipal government would work together with professionals in the industry to establish sensible, practical, and healthy regulations. It concerns me that if the industry is not consulted, the regulations that are set will be inadequate, whether they are set too high or too low.

In Toronto, we had a similar situation with the 'rave scene'. After a few drug-related deaths, the cities top promoters hooked up with some local politicians, and established a set of regulations that were to be enforced during 'raves' that covered things like having adequate space, fire exits, etc. at parties. Ideally something like this would happen with the bodyart industry working with government to essentially self-regulate itself.

Another positive thing I could see from government and industry working together is that bodyart itself would become legitimized in many people's eyes. When the government gets involved with and sets standards for anything, it lends legitimacy to that sector of society. I think it would help to dispel the image that people have of the biker-dude with a dirty needle tattooing "mom" across some drunk guy's ass. These regulations would also enable authorities to crackdown on dirty shops and also to outlaw ear-gunning outright.

Again, a parallel situation in Toronto has happened recently with our inspection of restaurants and the green, yellow, and red inspection cards that must be placed in restaurant windows. If the same inspection system was in place I think that the public would see that bodyart is a legitimate industry that contributes economically to society. Hopefully, this would then extend to the public's understanding that bodyart also contributes culturally to society.

That being said, the idea of closing shops down altogether is ludicrous and unfair. Tattoo and piercing shops have a negative association in many people's minds, and this extends the government's ability to harass them without much public outcry. I think that these proposed bans sound a warning that industry-wide standards are necessary, and that the industry needs to be proactive in establishing them.

mod enthusiast.

IAM Page: CT

I live in Massachusetts, and as some of you may know, Mass. just recently lifted its ban on tattooing that lasted over 30 years. This gave the state an interesting perspective when it came to legislation and law making. What Mass. did was create a panel of tattoo artists, shop owners and health regulators and found out what was needed for the industry to be safe "from the horse's mouth", so to speak. From there, the city governments were allowed to take care of the zoning laws, but the health code regulations are state-wide, making it much easier to regulate and enforce.

Unfortunately, not all cities have this opportunity. But instead of layering new legislation on top of the old, cities would be better off to come up with new laws and regulations and then give a date that those laws will become effective on, giving the shops time enough to comply with them or risk fining or potentially being shut down. While that may result in some shops being shut down, it can very easily be argued that if shops aren't able to comply with health regulations, that it shouldn't be operating in the first place and putting the public at risk.

Given an opportunity to wipe the slate clean and re-evaluate current health risks of piercing and tattooing, it will allow legislators and body mod practitioners to bring their concerns to the table and try to abolish risks like ear-piercing guns and promote safest sterile practices. Many practitioners are simply not pro-active enough to learn the newest techniques / methods and by "forcing" them to keep pace with the newest, safest procedures, everyone wins.

mod enthusiast.

IAM Page: WhiteTrash

City governments should not even entertain the idea of banning tattoo and piercing shops. If their concern is health risks, these concerns should be dealt with on a shop-to-shop basis. Most, if not all, cities have health and safety boards. These organizations should work with the studios to meet and exceed health regulations. If a shop is not up to par, they should be given a list of improvements that will bring them up to code, as well as a set time limit in which to make these changes. If the shop does not meet these requirements in the time period allotted, they should be shut down for the safety of the public. However, shutting down all shops, especially the safe and responsible ones, does not just cripple the lives of the people working at the establishment, but can also hurt the public. If there are no safe, clean environments in which people can be tattooed or pierced, they will seek out other methods, and get the procedures done anyway, quite possibly putting themselves at greater risk. As far as regulation goes, I don't think there's any feasible way to regulate the industry. Other than the basic rules (must have an autoclave, separate room for working, etc etc. which still fall under health risks), there are no other regulating factors. Bottom line: banning tattooing/piercing will not only disrupt the lives of the practitioners working in the studios but cause clients to seek ulterior methods of obtaining their modifications.

On the subject of not including ear piercing establishments, this is ridiculous. Most everyone in the modified community knows the dangers of being pierced by a piercing gun, and with a little research the general population can obtain the same information. If anything, city governments should be looking more closely at these "ear piercing establishments" who pierce with equipment that can't be properly sterilized, and hire people that have no previous piercing knowledge, no knowledge of cross contamination, etc.

mod enthusiast.

IAM Page: Dragon Slave

This question is worded a bit odd, but I'd do my best to answer it.

As for local government and handling proposed bans, I feel that randomly selected shops should be monitored discreetly by 'secret shoppers' so to speak; anywhere from a week to a month to ensure the safety of its customers. This also goes for any shop piercing anything -- be it ears or be it genital nature. The same goes for Ink. I believe that if it is really a problem in today's society it should be looked after with consideration.

Though it sounds a bit far-fetched, I feel that shops should be willing to even volunteer as a 'board of body art health' with other shops in the city. Certain regulations should be set with the artists themselves while government officials sit-in and discuss any concerns they may have.

With that, if certain shops can not be brought up to code they should pay fees or even be shut down depending on the severity of the heath risks. Those people owning -- or in the least in charge of the faulty equipment or unsanity workspace, should be put on file. This file should be able to be accessed by any future job or persons where the person in question may be working in the modification field.

Not all body modification artists are in it for the money -- some actually care and take great pride in their work adorning customers.

webmaster of Todd Bertrang's website, computer assistant at East Street Body Piercing in Sweden, interviewed on Modified Mind.

IAM Page: Loco

I don't really see how they can avoid including the ear-piercing done in hair-salons and similar establishments in such a ban since the standards there are in most cases a hell of a lot lower than they are in any piercing/tattoo-studio. If they are gonna ban bodmod-studios the least they could do about the gun-toting ear-piercers is demand that they raise their standards on sterility and cleanliness quite a bit. The preferred scenario would naturally be to ban the gun-piercing hairdressers and leave the serious piercers and tattoo-artists alone though.

mod enthusiast, assisted in Loco interview for Modified Mind.

IAM Page: p7tms

If a city bans those shops, wouldn't it start the formation of "backroom" studios trying to cash in on unsuspecting people? And who would know if the place was sterile or not? And would the item be done well, or would it lead to more problems? That would be like making a ban on garages; people would find another way to get things done -- whether or not it was a credible place or not.

Now, if a city were to ban tat/piercing shops and allow the mall jewelry shop to pierce ears, I think it's a terrible injustice -- especially since most of them would be using a piercing gun -- and as we all know, that causes damage -- not to mention that a piercing gun cannot be completely sterilized, so it would be a neat haven for nasty infections being passed from customer to customer. One word: eek!