Lawmakers aim to make tattoos safer
Flanked by several tattoo artists whose body art peeked through the top of their three-piece suits, South Florida Rep. Mary Brandenburg on Tuesday unveiled legislation that she said will make tattoos safer for teens and adults. The tattoo artists say the stricter regulations for licensing and health education would bring more legitimacy to the industry long regarded as underground and renegade.
"This probably will put some people out of business, but we need to protect the public health," said Brandenburg, D-West Palm Beach, adding she doesn't have a tattoo "and I never plan to get one."
"Whatever art you put on your body, it needs to be put on safely," she said.
Brandenburg's bill would prohibit tattoos for anyone under 16 except under special medical circumstances, and anyone under 18 would have to be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian while getting inked.
Under HB 729, tattoos could only be given in businesses regulated by the Florida Department of Health, from tattoo artists who have been licensed by the health department. To get their initial license and renew it, the artists would be required to attend a course through health department on blood-borne pathogens and sanitation and hygiene issues.
Currently, tattoo parlors are registered with the health department as bio-waste pickup sites, and the supervision of tattoo artists comes under the Board of Medicine, the same board that oversees doctors and dentists. There are no age limits for tattoos, but parental or guardian consent is required for minors, under current statute.
Cocoa Beach tattoo parlor owner Mark Longenecker, president of the 110-member Florida Tattoo Artist Guild, conceded that some tattoo artists might not like the stricter regulations.
"But the majority of us are going to want to comply ...because it's going to make us a more legitimate industry," he said. "We're just trying to make it safe and sterile. If this puts anyone out of business, they probably deserve it."
Joining Brandenburg Tuesday were representatives from Florida Blood Services and the Florida Society of Dermatology and Dermatologic Surgery, which all support the proposal.
J.B. Gaskins of Florida Blood Services said the legislation, if passed, would allow Florida blood banks to take blood from people who have been tattooed recently, thus expanding the pool of potential donors.
Currently the FDA and American Association of Blood Banks allow only states with tight tattoo regulations and licensing requirements to take donations from those who have been recently tattooed. Blood banks in states like Florida with more lax rules cannot accept blood until a year after the tattoo was inked because of concerns over hepatitis and other blood-borne pathogens.
Brandeburg said she thinks that most tattoo artists are following the rules. But the man she spotted recently inking people at an outdoor flea market in Palm Beach County probably isn't, she said.
"I don't think he even washed his hands in between tattoos," she said.
The Senate sponsor is Eleanor Sobel, D-Hollywood, who is also sponsoring legislation that cleared its first committee Tuesday to require parental consent for teens using tanning beds.