A lot of people are surprised that it's only been recently that the tattoo industry has come under any sort of state regulation. However, only forty years ago, it was still a fringe practice that caught the fancy of bikers and outlaws and only seemed to come to widespread attention when there was a hepatitis A outbreak. A few decades, several communicable and incurable diseases later, and tattooing is hugely popular. It's been estimated to be the fifth-fastest growing industry and nearly a quarter of people in their 20s have gotten inked.
Between the explosion of tattoo shops, the need for health standards due to HIV and hepatitis C, and the nation-wide budget crunch, the time of tattoo parlors being regulated like other service industries has finally come. Barbers and hairdressers have long been required to have regular training, licensing and shop inspections, and now the tattoo-infused West Coast has decided the same is required of tattoo artists.
Often-progressive Oregon is leading the pack, as they already require over 350 hours of instruction at a state-approved institution complete with a formal written exam. Washington State has a new law going into effect July 2, 2010 whereby tattooists will need to be certified in preventing blood-borne pathogens and they will have to obtain a license and have insurance. Tattoo shops will start being inspected every other year for cleanliness and compliance. The laws also cover other body arts such as branding, piercing or scarification.
California, where the modern tattoo Renaissance really came to fruition, is playing catch-up to the other two states. A bill introduced to increase tattoo rules and regulations was vetoed in 2009, but has been re-introduced for 2010. Like it's West Coast neighbors, lawmakers are looking to add licensing fees, training requirements and health inspections of tattoo shops. The bill was blocked on the grounds that Governor Schwarzenegger felt counties and cities should handle such oversight, but state representatives disagree, and have revived the bill.