The Daily Evergreen

Think before you ink

JOSH BABCOCK | Evergreen columnist

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Before you sit down in a tattoo parlor chair, remember what state you are in- if it’s Idaho, anyone who has the money to purchase a business license can be a tattoo artist.

The law is not the same for all states, as reported by a local Connecticut newspaper, the Waterford Patch. More than forty states already require tattoo artists to obtain a separate license, permit or other form of registration.

While most states understand the seriousness of the issue, it seems states similar to Idaho either lack understanding when it comes to public health or they just don’t care enough about it.

Comparatively, in other states the importance of public health can’t be stressed enough. According to the Washington State Department of Licensing, Washington tattoo shops require a health inspection every two years. In Illinois, it is a Class A misdemeanor for any unlicensed artist to tattoo someone, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

With restrictions in most states, and some penalties as harsh as incarceration, there is no question Idaho’s choice to do absolutely nothing is a mistake.

While some artists enjoy Idaho’s policies concerning tattoos, many other artists and tattoo parlor owners can only hope that one day Idaho makes licenses a requirement among tattooists.

Joseph Witherup has owned the Crimson Reign tattoo parlor in Lewiston, Idaho for more than three years and questions why the state has yet to require artist’s licenses. Although Witherup’s business is located in Idaho, the parlor meets all Washington state requirements and all artists are certified in bloodborne pathogens.

Witherup said Idaho’s carelessness toward public health has led to people’s homes becoming tattoo parlors. Because the state doesn’t enforce tattoo artists to be licensed, the public sees more unqualified artists and businesses.

Three years ago, Witherup went to Idaho’s health board to address the importance of public health in tattoo parlors, but he was unable to influence change.

For someone like Witherup with a passion for tattooing, it is difficult to watch competitors advertise on Facebook by tattooing someone at home with a sink full of dishes and a garbage can full of trash in the background.

Idaho and other similar states need to ensure that tattooists understand the health risks behind the art. Until they do, public health will be in jeopardy.

Luckily, more states are beginning to recognize the threat of bloodborne pathogens and other health risks that tattooing carries with it. Most recently, Connecticut began working on a way to license its tattoo artists in 2013, according to the CT Post.

If passed, the state will require tattooists to complete a bloodborne pathogen course, be first-aid certified by the American Red Cross or American Heart Association, and pay a $250 licensing fee.

It is unfortunate it took Connecticut this long to acknowledge the health risks tattoos present.

The state’s late focus on tattoos may raise awareness to citizens in states like Idaho that lack licensing for tattoo artists. But as long as Idaho and other states alike are content with unlicensed tattoo artists, they will continue to jeopardize the health of their residents.

– Josh Babcock is a senior communication major from Pullman. He can be contacted at 335-2290 or by [email protected] The opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of the staff of The Daily Evergreen or those of Student Publications.

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Think before you ink