Perhaps Third Time is the Charm for Stricter State Tattoo and Piercing Laws

For the third time in as many years, a San Francisco lawmaker has won approval by the Assembly for a bill to strengthen regulations on piercing, tattooing and branding.

Democratic Assemblywoman Fiona Ma’s Safe Body Art Act cleared the lower house on a unanimous vote April 11. Two previous measures were vetoed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger who said statewide regulation and hygiene and safety standards weren’t needed.

“Manicurists have more training than tattooists or piercers,” Ma said in a statement after the bill’s passage. “They need 400 hours of training before they can cut your nails, yet tattooists and piercers have no training requirements to stick a needle in you.”

Ma’s bill is a collaboration between the Health Officers Association of California and the tattoo and piercing industries which have attempted to create statewide standards fort more than 10 years.

Previous state legislation allowed cities and counties to pass their own local ordinances. San Francisco has its own regulations. Los Angeles approved tattoo regulations in 1999.

But simply follow current state law, which imposes fee requirements on tattoo and piercing artists.

State law now says tattoo artists must register in the county where they do business and pay a one-time $25 fee. They must also obtain a copy of the local jurisdiction’s sanitation rules.

Ma would have tattoo artists register annually and show evidence of a Hepatitis B vaccination and take training on the spread of it and other blood borne pathogens like HIV.

No person under 18 could get a tattoo – whether their parents consent or not.

A piercing however would be allowed for minors – except of their nipples or genitals – if done in the presence of their parent or guardian.

She would allow the one-time fee charged by counties to be set between $25 and $45.

Cities and counties would be allowed to approve stricter local rules.

Body piercing is defined in the bill, AB 300, as “the creation of an opening in a human body for the purpose of inserting jewelry or other decoration.’

Piercing includes—but is not limited to – “the piercing of an ear, including the tragus, lip, tongue, nose, or eyebrow.”

Getting a pierced ear in the traditional sense is not subject to the bill’s requirements.

Among Schwarzenegger’s cited reasons for vetoing Ma’s 2010 measure, AB 223, was the specificity of the hygiene requirements such as sa lengthy description on the proper way to wash hands.

“Use friction to clean all surfaces of the hands and fingers for at least 15 seconds and re-rinse his or her hands under running water to completely remove soap,” her previous bill said.

Ma’s current bill is somewhat less specific.

In AB 300, a tattoo artist is instructed to “wash and dry his or her hands consistent with sound hygienic practices.”

They must don a “clean apron, bib or lap pad over clean, dry clothing.”

Put on “personal protective equipment” that is “appropriate for the task.”

Previously unused, disposable examination gloves are to be worn at all times.

“If gloves come into contact with an object or surface other than the client’s prepared skin or material to be used for the procedure, or if a glove is torn or punctured, both gloves shall be removed, hand hygiene performed, and new, clean, previously unused, disposable examination gloves shall be donned.”

If shaving is needed, the area of skin is to be washed with soap and water and a single-use disposable razor used.

“It is a common complaint within the business community that “overregulation” is driving businesses out of California.  Look no further than AB 223 for such an example,” Schwarzenegger said in his veto message, noting the measure told tattoo artists and piercers to wash their hands.

“I realize this issue may be important to few but it is not appropriate to tell tattoo artists through the statute how to wash their hands,” the GOP governor said.

Ma hopes for a warmer reception from Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown.






  1. Another great example of the prickly issues our vaunted state Legislature continues to conquer. One tat at a time.

    Comment by Gus Turdlock — 4.13.2011 @ 8:41 am

  2. This bill certainly has its pro’s. Yet has many cons as well. After going through the bill with a fine tooth comb, there are so many items on the bill that are questionable..ie: piercing “guns” how many years have we all been told by APP NO No No, yet this bill says ok as long as your trained, forget about the damage they do to the tissue, and how the jewelry can’t be sterilized, funny how insurance charges more to cover you if you use these, yet they are ok. Air purifiers in each room? Sinks in each room..Everyone I know hates having sinks in their rooms, they are a contamination horror. No food anywhere in the shop? Where are we supposed to eat during a 12 hour day? A sterile processed strip, monthly spore test results, single bagged tools are not enough, now we have to have another indicator? The costs alone to upgrade to 6 sinks with handless faucets, running plumbing, handless paper towel holders over each sink, purifiers in each room, raising walls,is quite a bit to expect, especially when all of our businesses are down with the economy. I want to add we are an APP and APT STANDARD SHOPPE…with 5 months to comply is absurd! Perhaps implementing this in stages? Or giving a bit more time to comply? Just thoughts..I will be at the training.. I have many more questions than these..What happens to medical offices? Does everyone in the medical office have to have Hep B shot? Are all doctors offices required to have handless sinks and paper towel holders? What about salons? Is every hairstylist who pierces nipples with a piercing gun need a shot and will he or she have to register with the county..I have no problem complying, but it HAS to straight across the board. EVERYONE…

    Comment by gg — 1.28.2012 @ 10:35 pm

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