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Tattoo safety bill heads to Pennsylvania House

A neon sign is seen in the window of the tattoo shop.
Aaron Doster
A neon sign is seen in the window of the tattoo shop.

Abby Major thinks she just might have more tattoos than any other member of the state House. So she brings significant insight to her efforts to make tattoo parlors safer.

Many tattoo artists are buying cheap equipment online and running unregulated shops, the Armstrong County Republican said.

“They have no background knowledge on sterilization, sanitation and they’re getting infected,” she said. “They run the risk for, um, things like hepatitis or HIV doing these things.”

She is sponsoring legislation that might not stop them but might give consumers peace of mind knowing they are going to a licensed tattoo parlor.

Under the bill, certified parlors could only employ artists, including guest artists, who are licensed by the Department of Health.

Temporary establishments, such as tattoo conventions, must also be certified and have licensed artists only.

Furthermore, the establishment must be certified by the Department of Health and have yearly inspections to ensure it is up to code.

The bill is based on the Floridamodel of tattoo parlors, which requires training on bloodborne pathogens but isn’t costly or burdensome to the license seeker.

“Making sure that we’re doing something but not going too far is where I was at with it,” she said.

Pennsylvania does not require certifications to give tattoos except on a countywide basis, such as in Philadelphia County.

Many neighboring states also have lax tattoo laws, with the exception of New Jersey, which requires local health departments to examine each tattoo parlor.

Major said barbers have to be licensed on the chance they break skin while tattoo artists, who deliberately break the skin, don’t need to be.

“There’s the potential for a skin break there, but like, with a tattoo, you’re definitely breaking the skin,” she said. “So they should, in my opinion, they should have this, at the very least, this, the bloodborne pathogen training.”

Safer tattoo parlors could also increase the state’s blood supply as those getting unregulated tattoos must wait three months before donating. People who get tattooed in state-regulated parlors, however, don’t need to wait.

This legislation has been attempted before, introduced by former Rep.Tony DeLuca, D-Allegheny. But that attempt included amendments banning the practice of things such as facial tattoos and tongue splitting, Major said, and it failed in 2018.

Major opposes those additions, believing it to be a personal choice.

There was another attempt by now-Sen. Rosemary Brown, R-Lackawanna, which failed in 2021.