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D.C. Proposes 24-Hour Waiting Period For Tattoos And Piercings

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Once unregulated, D.C.'s tattoo parlors and body piercers are facing 65 pages of new rules.
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Once unregulated, D.C.'s tattoo parlors and body piercers are facing 65 pages of new rules.

Feeling an urge to get some body art in D.C.? You may soon have an extra day to mull it over.

A set of regulations for tattoo artists and body piercers unveiled today would mandate a 24-hour wait between when a customer requests a tattoo or piercing and when they can actually get it.

"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," state the regulations, with similar wording for body piercings. The regulations would also prohibit artists from binding a customer to committing to getting a tattoo or piercing.

Should it be implemented, D.C. would be one of the few places in the country that imposes a waiting period on tattooing and piercing. While spokeswoman Najma Roberts says the Department of Health followed a model in Wisconsin, D.C.-based tattoo artist Paul Roe calls the proposed 24-hour wait "ridiculous."

"That's a classic case of a cosmetologist saying, 'Shouldn't those people think about their decision?"", he says.

Under the proposed regulations, operators and artists would be licensed and regulated by the D.C. Board of Barber and Cosmetology, which has participated in the writing of the rules. Roe says that he's vying for an open seat on the board so as to represent the interests of tattoo artists and body piercers.

Tattooing and piercing remained unregulated in D.C. until mid-2012, when the D.C. Council passed legislation mandating that tattoo artists and body piercers be licensed. (Watch part of the hearing here.)

The 65 pages of regulations would prohibit tattooing of anyone under the age of 18, require that operators and artists be licensed and outline exactly what type of equipment they can use and how it should be maintained. It would also prohibit tattooing or piercing of anyone under the influence of alcohol or drugs, a policy many shops say they already follow.

For Roe, the age restriction is less troubling than the waiting period. Calling tattooing a "rite of passage," Roe says codifying a minimum age is good policy. "In order to protect the child, a minimum required age of 18 is absolutely required," he says.

Both Virginia and Maryland regulate tattooing and piercing, though neither imposes a 24-hour waiting period and both allow minors with parental permission to be tattooed.

Roe, who otherwise supports regulating tattoo artists and body piercers, worries that the proposed rules may go too far.

"Over-regulation is the killer of any profession," he says.

UPDATE, 4:30 p.m.: Fox 5's Matt Ackland tweeted a fuller explanation from the Department of Health for the waiting period: "Health Department says the new proposed regulation will stop impulse tattoos. Says some regret getting tattoos the next day."

UPDATE, 5 p.m.: A few other small towns have enacted waiting periods, including Greenwich, NJ, where someone wanting a tattoo has to wait 48 hours.

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