The hearing, organized by Rep. John Mizuno, brought together industry members, the Department of Health, and lawmakers to discuss changes to the licensing process in order to provide a safe and healthy environment for consumers. Unsafe tattoo and body piercing practices - in commercial venues, in the homes of amateurs, and cultural practices - can lead to the exchange and transfer of blood borne viruses, including but not limited to Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, and HIV/AIDS.
Four tattoo and body piercing artists, who have been spearheading the review of the industry, repeatedly mentioned the need for higher penalties against people who practice without a license or disobey rules and regulations, such as tattooing a minor without parental consent. They also suggested imposing higher licensing fees, which can help pay for more safety inspectors to enforce safety and health rules.
One of their major concerns was the fact that the tattooing licensing exam is almost 30 years old. The last time it was updated or reviewed was in 1981. Many participants of the briefing were concerned that the exam does not provide questions on Hepatitis and other more recent and prevalent communicable diseases.
Sean McGready, the owner of Tattoolicious in Waikiki, was concerned about the State's lack of laws and regulation for body piercing. He provided DOH officials with a rough draft of possible legislation that would make a separate set of rules and regulation for the body piercing industry.
The body piercing industry is growing fiercely, with more young people opting to use their body as art and put themselves under the needle - or in some cases, the knife. This new phenomenon is known as "body modification." McGready explained that the industry has evolved from the typical cosmetic piercing to full blown surgical procedures. Many body piercing shops are performing body art like "skin peeling," surgically removing sections of the skin to create keloids, or "braiding," cutting strips of skin which are then intertwined and placed back on the body to heal in that form, or "beading," the placement of an object underneath the skin and above the tissue of a person.
All parties involved in the hearing agreed that further discussion must continue in order to develop clear, feasible and comprehensive changes to the standards of the tattooing and body piercing industry.
Photo top left: Skin peeling or "scarification" is becoming a very popular form of body art that is not regulated in Hawaii.
Photo bottom right: Peggy Schuler, a representative of the tattoo industry, shows DOH officials a disposable cultural, Polynesian tattooing instrument, which can help prevent the spread of blood borne diseases.