The following question came into the Body Art in-box:
"I just had my first tattoo done three weeks ago. The tattoo artist that did my tattoo used a needle that he had used on my mom and then he used it on me. Is that okay?"
My opinion for this situation is that it is NOT okay.
Some people feel that if a tattoo artist asks two people who know each other (family members or boyfriend/girlfriend) if they consent to having the same needle reused to do multiple tattoos, then it is okay. However there are a significant number of reasons why tattoo set-ups should not be reused on more than one customer even if the clients know each other.
There are several diseases present in society today that are transmitted via exchange of body fluids and with tattooing, you are introducing material directly into the bloodstream of the person getting the tattoo. It's not like there's a slight chance of passing along an infection or disease, there's almost no chance of not passing along something when you are dealing with blood-to-blood transmission. Viral hepatitis (hepatitis B, hepatitis C) HIV/AIDS and viral hemorrhagic fevers are the main types of illnesses which can be passed along due to contaminated blood.
In the USA, close to twenty percent of people who have HIV don't know they have the disease. That adds up to nearly a quarter of a million people. The situation is even worse when it comes to viral hepatitis. Estimates suggest that nearly 75% of the people who have HCV or HBV don't know it and won't learn they do until they develop advanced liver disease or cancer from the viruses that they've been carrying for years or decades without any apparent sign of illness.
With those potential risks, it is possible that although two people think they know each other well enough, one can be carrying a disease that will almost certainly be passed along to the other from a shared needle experience.
Tattooists have made the argument that it saves them money and time by not having to do a second needle set-up when they are tattooing two people who consent to sharing a needle but is the cost of a few dozen dollars worth any amount of risk when that risk can mean a lifetime of illness or an early death?