Washington, DC may institute 24-hour waiting period for tattoos and piercings

The Sideshow

If you had to stop and think about it for a day, would you still get that giant dragon tattoo across your back?

That’s the question being raised by health regulators in our nation’s capital, where Washington, DC officials are considering a mandatory 24-hour waiting period before getting a tattoo or body piercings.

"The licensee or operator of a body art establishment shall ensure that no tattoo artist applies any tattoo to a customer until after twenty-four (24)hours have passed since the customer first requested the tattoo," reads the language of proposed language of new regulations from Washington DC’s Department of Health.

“We’re making sure when that decision is made that you’re in the right frame of mind, and you don’t wake up in the morning . . . saying, ‘Oh my God, what happened?’ Washington DC Health Department Spokeswoman Najma Roberts told the Washington Post.

In other words, the potential new regulation would largely be aimed at stopping people from getting a tattoo while drunk, or under the influence of other drugs.

“They can’t be responsible for themselves, as well as the person doing the work on them,” Roberts said.

Once largely relegated to the counter culture, tattoos have become mainstream in recent years. A 2010 Pew Research Study found that more than 23 percent of people in the U.S. have a tattoo .

However, getting a tattoo can still carry a social cost in some circles. For example, a recent New York Times story found that 61 percent of human resource managers say a visible tattoo could hurt someone’s job prospects . Interestingly, that number is actually up from 57 percent in 2011.

The DC Health Department said the proposed regulation is also aimed at reducing the cases of Hepatitis B and other potential risks. However, a number of local tattoo parlor owners tell the Post that a waiting period would be devastating to their businesses.

“Overregulation will kill the profession and drive it underground and make it less safe for everybody,” British Ink tattoo parlor operator Paul Roe told the Post. “Why not 24 hours’ waiting time before shaving your head?”

Technically, DC is one of the few largely unregulated tattoo markets in the nation. New Mexico and North Dakota are the only two states without some form of body art industry regulations. A 2012 city council resolution required DC tattoo artists to be licensed.

The actual 66-page draft proposal of new regulations was released on Friday and contains a number of provisions for ensuring health and safety standards in body art locations within the District.

The Mayo Clinic says that any person considering a tattoo or other permanent body art should carefully consider whether the location they are visiting has high health standards.

The proposed regulation still has several hurdles to clear before becoming law. In DC, there is a 30-day period where the public is allowed to weigh in on any proposed new regulations. And the office of Mayor Vincent C. Gray said he “has serious doubts about the regulations as proposed.”