That leave be granted to introduce a Bill entitled an Act to make it an offence to carry out an intimate piercing or a tattoo on a person aged below 18 years and to regulate piercing and tattoo businesses.
This would be is the first ever regulation of the body art sector, banning tattoos and intimate piercings for those under 18 years of age and strengthening health and safety provisions for the industry. The Bill aims to fill a clear legal void through three main measures, namely, a ban on tattoos for under 18 year olds, a ban on intimate body piercings for under 18 year olds and a strengthening of health and safety regulation in the sector.
The popularity of tattoos and piercings has exploded in the past decade. There has been a large increase in the number of tattoo and piercing parlours across the country. However, Ireland has no specific legislation on the regulation of tattooing and body piercing businesses. Although, there is no published data on the prevalence of tattoos among the Irish population, a 2016 review in the medical journal The Lancet states that up to 36% of people younger than 40 years have at least one tattoo, with many being first inked between the ages of 16 and 20 years.
As my husband is a tattoo enthusiast, I know that getting a tattoo is a lifelong decision. Setting an age limit of 18 years effectively legislates for what is best practice in the sector and targets rogue operators. Intimate body piercing for children has been banned in Wales amid fears it can lead to health issues and make young people vulnerable to abuse. Studies that found complications were reported in more than a quarter of body piercings for individuals aged 16 to 24. Under the provisions of the Bill, practitioners would not be allowed to carry out or arrange intimate piercings, including to the tongue and breasts of anyone under 18. Ears, noses, navels and eyebrows are not covered in the legislation.
Despite the fact that the popularity of tattoos and piercings has exploded in the past ten years, the Government has failed to keep pace and ensure strong health and safety standards. We need to ensure high health and safety standards among operators. The risks associated with tattooing and body piercing can range from acute infections to allergic reactions and can occur when the piercing or tattooing equipment becomes contaminated. There are also risks with the disposal of needles and sharps and the same conditions should apply as in any medical setting.
I have met representatives from the sector in preparing the Bill. The majority of tattoo and piercing parlours operate to high standards and welcome regulation that will remove rogue operators. The representatives are anxious for the Bill to be passed as soon as possible to regulate the industry.