"Think Before You Ink" Law Proposition: Legislating People's Personal Choices

by rania_zahi on September 10, 2013 - 6:32pm


In Washington D.C., local officials are contemplating a new law proposed by the city’s department of health that would require a 24 hour waiting period for people who want to get a tattoo or a piercing. According to the draft regulations, the law would basically force body art businesses to “ensure that no tattoo artist applies any tattoo to a customer until after 24 hours have passed since the customer first requested the tattoo.”


Indeed, this “think before you ink” possible law is quite an issue for both people and body art businesses. Should the government really be legislating such matter for health concerns, or should it rather be staying out of people’s personal choices?


This law proposal made by the Washington, D.C. health department could in fact protect customers from many health risks and from regretting their decision of getting a tattoo or a body piercing. Countless people let the ease of getting tattoos stop them from making a thoughtful decision about permanent body art, and simply get tattoos or piercing without truly knowing what is involved. In fact, the tattoo ink contains many harmful substances that can cause allergic reactions, skin infections, and bloodborne diseases such as tetanus, hepatitis B, and C, just like piercings. Furthermore, this proposal can also protect people from “regrets about impulsively going under the needle” (Saulny, and Alexis Shaw) and actually give them a second chance to truly think about their decision, since the prospective customers would also have to fill in a questionnaire to reveal the conditions that might affect the healing process, like pregnancy or diabetes, thing that many people don’t even know when getting a tattoo or piercing. Such law would therefore allow future customers to really know and understand the risk of their actions, which promotes the values of security, and collective responsibility, where society as a whole should be held responsible for each other’s actions.


On the other hand, “customers are crying foul” (Saulny, and Alexis Shaw), claiming that people should be able to take responsibility for their own decisions and that this law would be an infringement to people’s freedom of choice. "If somebody wants to come in as a walk-in, they're going to pay for the service. That's on them." one customer said. "If they regret that decision down the road, that again is on them.” Indeed, it should not be up to the government or the shop to regulate and control people's bad decisions. Furthermore, such law would badly affect body art businesses’ bottom line, since one of the keystones of the body art industry has been the walk-in service. By removing the walk-in service, such delay would be therefore largely killing the business. Indeed, a part from affecting local body art businesses, a 24 hour mandatory delay before getting a tattoo or piercing would also counter the principle of respect for autonomy and many values such as individual freedom (of choosing whether or not getting a tattoo or piercing without any regulations from the law), non-interference (from the government), self-reliance, and spontaneity.


In my opinion, such proposition would indeed be an infringement to people’s freedom of choice, self-reliance, and autonomy. I have to admit that this “think before you ink” law would protect prospective customers from making the spontaneous yet important decision of getting a permanent tattoo or piercing while not being in their normal state. However, the government should not regulate or interfere in such thing as people’s bad choices or experiences. It is an intrusion to the principle of respect for autonomy and the value of individual freedom. If it is truly about health concerns, the idea of giving the customers a questionnaire would be acceptable, as we would make sure that they are aware of the conditions that could affect the healing process and that they know what it is involved in getting a tattoo or piercing. Nevertheless, people don’t need more governmental interference in their lives, there is too much of that already.


Out of all society's urging issues, I don't understand why lawmakers focus on such petty and asinine situations like tattoos and piercings. If that's what people want, let them have it. What matters do you think our governments should be giving importance to in today's society?







Works cited

Saulny, Susan, and Alexis Shaw. "'Think Before You Ink' Law May Put a 24-Hour Waiting Period on Tattoos, Piercings." ABC News 8 September 2013, n. pag. Web. 10 Sep. 2013. <http://abcnews.go.com/US/washington-dc-tattoo-parlors-threatened-propose....


Of all the controlling, silly laws I've heard of in the past, this one has got to take the cake. When I first stumbled across your title, I honestly thought it was going to be a law on... I don't know, journalists verifying the credibility of their stories. However, when I read your summary, I was shocked that the government is passing such laws. As much as I understand the importance of public security, health and order, it seems a little exaggerated to stop people from inking themselves or getting a peicing. The fact is, it seems to violate much more important values such as, freedom of expression, creativity and the right to make decisions for ourselves. This law also goes against the principle of respect for autonomy, by implying that we are not suited to make decisions for ourselves. In all honesty, I think inspections of tattoo and peircing places would be much more suited to ensure public health (which I believe is the only logical reason for this law to exist). Doesn't the government see that it would be violating to many of our rights through this law?

I really like your subject because it is so original, yet so shocking. I never thought someone would ever think about creating such a law!!

When we think about it, is it not ingenious? The government could then prevent people from making bad decisions!! However, to stay consistent, the government would have to forbid smokers from getting their cigarettes less than 24 hours after buying them. Indeed, smoking is very unhealthy and making people wait could discourage some to start or maintain their habit and then reduce the rate of lung, tongue and throat cancers.

In my opinion, the government is trying to infantilize its citizens by breaking the principle of autonomy. People over age are responsible for themselves and if they want to get a tattoo or a piercing, let them do it whenever they want. They have the information available to know more about the piercings or tattoos consequences and can therefore judge the risks for themselves.

Like Kant would say, since people can know about the consequences of their act, we should respect their capacity of reasoning and not try to make them act in our own way.

How would you feel if the government begins to disrespect our autonomy and our judgement?

Your article is very different from all the others here on Newsactivist and while reading it I did find it very interesting and you established well the positive and negative points about the issue.
I find this law has the equal amount of benefits and flaws about it. First, I personally know that people who want to get a tatto don't really decide spontaneously that they want to get inked up that afternoon. Some do! But a majority actually think it through and do research on the matter, such as what are the risks and most importantly try to figure out on their own if they are truly ready to get a tatto. For this point, I find that the law is useless, as I personally don't need a law to inform me of the risks of getting a tatto or piercing. So. I do support this argument that it is the choice of a person to deal with the risks, not the government's and they shouldn't enforce the 24 hour rule.
The only thing I agree with this law is that their are some health risk that should be controlled by the government. Like you said, tetanus, hepatitis B and C are dangerous and can cost a person's life.
So, maybe if the government did have some say into this issue, I would suggest it create more security in the ink business, such as to do regular safety and health inspections in the tatto and piercing shops. Also, the shops could have little flyers they could give to clients in order to show them that there are some risks, therefore allowing the client the choice to do it or not. Because at the end of the line, it is a personal choice and risk. People should be, in the case of getting tattos, responsible and mature enough to know it is can be a mistake.
Since this article is from the United States, do they have laws here in Canada that regulate the ink industry?

I agree with all of you.

It is true that this law would somehow be beneficial to some people, as it would prevent them from making spontaneous decisions. However, I still don't think that it is the government's business. They're trying to legislate people's CHOICES and EXPERIENCES. There are things that are much more important and in society. I feel like such law would just be a waste of time.

Hi rania_zahi,
When I first came across this article I was surprised that such a law is actually being considered to be put into place. It is a fascinating topic, so that is why I have decided to post.
Honestly, I am not really sure what to make of this law. While I can understand the idea that lawmakers want to protect citizens from making decisions they may later regret, it seems to me like they are just plain babying the adult population of D.C. I truly think that lawmakers are being sincere in their concern over citizens, but I just do not see the point in having people wait 24 hours before getting tattoos. The whole idea seems like a huge waste of time to be honest.
The problem I have with this law is the fact that it is violating citizens’ rights to do what they want with their own bodies. Sure, it may only be for a short period of time but it is a violation nonetheless. I completely agree with you when you wrote that the “law would protect prospective customers from making the spontaneous yet important decision of getting a permanent tattoo or piercing while not being in their normal state.” People make mistakes, in some cases (like this one) these mistakes are permanent but that’s all on the person. It is not up to the government to act as parents to grown adults.
Like I mentioned, I was very intrigued by this topic. I was wondering, what made you want to write about a unique topic like this one?