December 4, 1996
Hiding cobras, birds, flowers and mythical creatures under their clothes, dozens of people went to City Hall yesterday to urge that a decades-old ban on tattoo parlors be lifted.
Andrea Tasha, 31, a tattoo-artist apprentice at the Rising Dragon tattoo shop in Chelsea, told the city Council’s Health Committee that the ban, enacted during a 1961 hepatitis scare, is no longer necessary.
“If we are talking about health, the professional tattooing industry has been self-regulating,” she said. “The proof of that is there hasn’t been an outbreak of disease in the city.” Tasha added that the city is a mecca for tattoo artists.
Councilwoman Kathryn Freed (D-Manhattan), sponsor of a bill to regulate the industry, said, “It’s a very popular form of body decorating, and a lot of kids do it.”
“That’s one of the things that this bill would do, make it so that minors cannot get it without their parents’ or guardians’ consent,” Freed said.
The bill would create an advisory board of health professionals and tattoo artists to oversee the industry. Artists would have to get permits expected to cost about $200, and fill out forms for each client they tattoo.
The hundreds of parlors operating in the city do so illegally, in defiance of the ban.
The city Health Department, which would inspect the establishments and generally oversee enforcement, favors lifting the ban while offering mandatory courses on infectious disease prevention, said department spokesman Fred Winters.
“We agree that there is not a sufficient public health threat to keep tattoo parlors illegal,” Winters said.
Carlo, who asked to be identified only by his first name, said he already sterilizes equipment used in his three city parlors.
Needles are used once and thrown away, he said. Dyes are poured into single-service caps that are discarded after each use.
Once the province of sailors, bikers and convicts, tattooing has moved into the mainstream in a big way.Carlo said half his customers are women and nine out of 10 customers are professionals such as lawyers, doctors and stockbrokers. “What else can you buy that lasts you a lifetime,” he said.