The debate over regulating tattoo has raged on and on for a very long time now. Opinions on the subject are divided, to say the least and I have taken to this blog on numerous occasions to weigh in with my own opinions. In case you haven’t read any of those previous blog posts, I’ll just state right here and now that I am for regulation. I think the art form can benefit from regulation, but only if it’s done properly – and by properly I mean if only the tattooists themselves are listened to and understood as a particular case, not glommed on to other concepts of “health and beauty”.
It seems that the most recent country to weigh in on this debate is New Zealand. The Auckland city council has recently introduced a bylaw that will require all tattoo studios to be licensed. The bylaw doesn’t specifically target tattoo studios, but focuses instead on any commercial services that risk breaking, burning or piercing the skin. Since tattoo falls under this umbrella, it is now required by law to be licensed. Other businesses that are included in this bylaw are tanning clinics as well as hair or nail removal services.
While health ministers and the like are cheering this recent change and while it does indeed have its good points, overall I fear that it likely isn’t a good move for tattooists and their respective places of work. Tattooing is not even in the same stratosphere as hair and nail removal or tanning. This move lumps tattoo in with beautician services and seriously undermines tattoo’s place as a genuine and credible art form. From a health standpoint, it is always good to see laws in place that ensure that those who will be tattooing the public are licensed professionals. However, the needs and requirements of tattooists are nothing like those of beauticians.
If tattoo is going to be regulated and licensed, then it needs to be done properly and separate from all other forms of commercial business. A sub section needs to be created within the health boards of various municipalities and it needs to be staffed by those who are familiar with exactly what it is that tattooists require to do their jobs. This would by no means be a small undertaking, but I feel it is the only way that tattooists could feel that the regulations they face are based on actual understanding of the industry that they work in.
For what it’s worth, moves like those of the Auckland city council are perhaps a step in the right direction, but unfortunately they also serve to show the public that there is a long way to go before tattoo is given the respect and understanding that it surely deserves.