Banning the sale of tattoo equipment to unlicensed individuals.

Forgive my indulgence, there are no pictures in this post, just me getting on my soapbox.

The UK tattoo industry has been remarkably libertarian in the past, resisting all attempts at external regulation and control. Now however, there is a movement to “Ban the sale of tattoo equipment to unlicensed individuals”. I could go on at length about this but two main issues spring to my mind; Firstly, what is an “unlicensed individual”? Assuming it just means that as long as you are licensed by your local authority it is ok, because it is about proper sterilisation equipment and use then I can see a case for that. But it’s important to remember that such licenses don’t cover technical/artistic competence or even anything to do with basic cross contamination knowledge, often just that you have an autoclave. (All local authorities seem to have their own rules but it all seems pretty basic). If this is the reason, then this movement may be campaigning for the wrong thing and putting the cart well before the horse. We may have to face the reality that we should have a qualification for cross contamination competence and more stringent regulation, which of course will have to be paid for. Having dealt with the self-perpetuating-bureaucratic nightmare of Laser Removal legislation before, I can only say, be very careful whenever you ask for more government intervention into your life and check that it is absolutely necessary.

Secondly, I am not sure whom we are trying to protect with this? I know some people might say “the industry” but that just seems pretty vague to me, I am not really sure what that even means. The industry can certainly survive people putting out shit tattoos from their house, it has for years, and it can survive a negative public perception of tattooing, it did for years and some prominent artists have nostalgia for those days. I actually think that with every crappy home made tattoo, more people are going to realise that it is not actually as easy as it looks and being a tattooist involves art and skill.

I presume it could be to protect the individuals getting tattooed. Is anyone really so naive they don’t know about blood borne pathogens in this day and age? I find that hard to believe. If they are under age then there already exists legislation to protect them, as there should be, and it is a different problem of how to best enforce that. If they are over 18, then as far as I am concerned, they are free to make any decisions they see fit in regards to their own body and they can face the consequences of those decisions too. Far better orators than me have summed this up so I will leave with a few choice quotes.

On responsibility and choices:

  • It is not the responsibility of the government or the legal system to protect a citizen from himself – Justice Casey Percell
  • If you are not free to choose wrongly and irresponsibly, you are not free at all – Jacob Hornberger

On over regulation;

  • If you have ten thousand regulations, you destroy all respect for the law – Winston Churchill
  • One of the greatest delusions in the world is the hope that the evils in this world are to be cured by legislation – Thomas B. Reed


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