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Getting safe tattoos should be an individual’s job, not the state’s

BY DI EDITORIAL BOARD | JULY 16, 2009 7:15 AM

New tattoo regulations designed to keep us safe will more likely just make it more difficult for artists to do their jobs.

The Iowa Board of Health recently raised fees and certification requirements for tattoo artists across the state. State officials said that fees needed to be raised because they have not been dealt with for the last 20 years.

However, with many businesses under stress from an intense recession, this fee comes at an absolutely horrible time for the industry.

Tattooing has been a booming business in Iowa over the last decade. In 2008, there were 532 licensed artists and 206 licensed shops. That’s a sizable increase from 131 artists and 61 shops in 1998. That jump highlights the necessity of safe practices.

We understand that stringent regulations on tattooing is intended to help keep Iowans safe.

However, Iowans should take it upon themselves to seek out tattoo artists who have higher personal standards than the law requires. Any respectable tattoo artist has stricter policies in place, not to fend off the state regulators but because they care about the well-being of their customers.

Even more alarming is that the funds generated from the higher fees will not be used to stop any of the problems with the industry. Instead, the money will be injected into the general fund, ignoring any hope of solving potential risks to tattoo customers. The state continues to stretch its power thin. Just because the state is poor at solving fiscal issues does not mean it should be allowed to implement new fees and policies to make up for its poor leadership. A tax by any other name is still a tax.

The state received some opposition to these initiatives and decided to lower the previous estimated fees to a more sensible level. Still, effective Jan. 1, 2010, tattoo shops will have to pay $100, up from $25, and tattoo artists will now have to pay $75, up from $40.

It would be common sense to use the money received to police and inspect tattoo parlors around the state. If officials were to inject this money back into securing Iowa’s tattoo industry, they would be making an investment in the future success and prosperity of a growing enterprise. But instead, to fill in the potholes of fiscal irresponsibility, they will use this money to satisfy other expenses in the state.

The education restrictions on the Iowa tattoo business are just as perplexing as the economic concerns. Along with the fee jump, new regulations require tattoo artists to be 18 years old and have a high-school diploma or GED. Implementing this restriction ignores the traditional educational process of a tattoo artist. Apprenticeships have always been a cornerstone of the tattoo industry, and they are the primary way that new artists learn and improve their craft before they mark any individual. The skills we gain in high school do not necessarily translate into tattoo artistry.

The Board of Health was nice enough to “grandfather” the clause in, not requiring certified tattoo artists to fulfill the education requirements. However, the required education will only prove to be another roadblock in the way of responsible and ethical men and women from working in their chosen profession. Furthermore, the state has not proven with any evidence that a high-school diploma will correlate to a proficient tattoo artist. Promoting education is always in our state’s best interest, but this use is restricting free enterprise and job growth.

Ultimately, the state is imposing new and unfair practices without considering the economic impact on Iowa businesses. The Board of Health’s decision to increase fees and restrictions on Iowa’s tattoo industry is just another step in stifling free enterprise.


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