Hepatitis is another risk associated with tattoos, and it's harder to sterilize against than staph organisms. This January, the CDC released a review of studies on tattoos and the hepatitis C virus that concluded there is "no definitive evidence for an increased risk of HCV infection when tattoos and piercings were received in professional parlors." The risk was, however, "significant" when tattoos were performed in home or prison environments. In fact, the CDC report cites two studies that showed a two- to three-times higher risk for HCV infection when the tattoo was received in a nonprofessional setting.

"Everyone that has a legitimate shop in Florida has seen an increase in people with infected tattoos or really bad tattoos done by people working out of their home," says Tom Meyer, who owns Ink Addiction, a shop with locations in Jupiter and Stuart. Meyer is the current president of the tattoo guild and has been working in the state since 1990. Nowadays, he says, the guild fluctuates in size from a few dozen dues-paying members to a few hundred; membership grows whenever there's a "so-called emergency."

One aspect of the new legislation that appeals to the guild, Meyer says, is that there's now monetary incentive for police and health officials to go after unlicensed tattooists and shops that are in violation. "If someone is tattooing illegally in an unlicensed area and it's a minor, that's three strikes," he says.

Louie tattoos Dony at his condo in Hialeah this February.
Chris Sweeney
Louie tattoos Dony at his condo in Hialeah this February.
A botched Hulk tattoo that Louie salvaged.
Courtesy of Louie
A botched Hulk tattoo that Louie salvaged.

In other words, if an unlicensed artist were caught tattooing a minor (now illegal) in his home (also illegal), he or she could be hit with upward of $5,000 in fines and a felony charge. The chances of getting caught might seem remote, except for one new development: The guild plans to work with health officials to root out underground artists and crack down on subpar shops.

"The big thing with the new law is it's all complaint-driven," Meyer explains. "So now, every time people come in with bad tattoos or tattoo infections, we as professional, legitimate shops will get as much information as we can on who did it and give that information to the health department or local police."

Hannong, who says Stevie Moon's mentality is a stranglehold when it comes to advancing the industry, is dead set on this idea.

"We're in the process of coordinating efforts between the Department of Health as well as law enforcement in each of our areas," he says, "so we can document the illegal activity and then we can issue that to the state attorney in each county and notify the department."

His voice tightens when he's asked if this ambition is driven by concern for public health or concern for shops' profits. He explains that everyone needs to respect the pedigree of the profession for it to remain a viable livelihood.

"There's an ongoing state of contention between underground activity and the legitimate industry," he says. "How protective would you be of your industry — being a person of property, having a family, and kids in school — and there being illegal activity that could jeopardize your livelihood?... The statutory language gives the state incentive to go after the underground activity. We as professionals will pursue this diligently to make sure it's followed through."

Tattooists like Moon say the tattoo industry is beautifully self-regulated; word gets around if you're a bad artist — not if you're an unlicensed one. Chico, who owns four shops in Miami, thinks that scratchers should be hit with felony charges, but he laughs at the idea of working with the DOH or local police, saying he's no snitch. Guy, an artist at Love Hate Tattoo, says the plan doesn't make sense, that tattooing is an industry driven by being better than other artists, not ratting them out. Marcelo Rodriguez, an artist at the Kendall location of Tattoos by Lou, calls the guild "a bunch of fucking pussies."

Moon is, unsurprisingly, a bit more expressive when told of the guild's plan. His 2009 alliance with the group has since crumbled, and he's "embarrassed" to be tattooing in the same state as its members.

"You're supposed to help your brethren, not fucking burn them down," he says. "This is an organization I thought was supposed to support the community, and instead they want to try to police it. They're a bunch of scared little fucking boys still trying to start a tattoo mafia and make it legit by hiding behind this law and the whole scratcher thing."


Underground artists seem unfazed by the hubbub. Louie has no plans to stop his home-run tattoo business because of the new laws, though he has kicked around the idea of opening a shop. Omar, who runs an immaculate yet illegal shop in Hialeah Gardens, says there are underground artists in every medium — music, painting, and tattoos — and it's the consumer's choice to pick an established or underground shop. Then there's Biggie, a four-foot-11 22-year-old who tried going legit but found the DIY approach easier, cleaner, and more profitable.

"Honestly, I don't think the law is gonna do anything," she says over a cup of coffee.

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9 comments
rana7071
rana7071

orlando roofing contractor 

This article gives the light in which we can observe the reality. this is very nice one and gives indepth information. thanks for this nice articleThis was a really quality post. In theory I'd like to write like this too - taking time and real effort to make a good article... but what can I say... I procrastinate alot and never seem to get something done.

lakawak
lakawak

What kind of guy cant find a job with a degree in the medical profession? That is the ONLY area hiring.

It someone can't get a job in the medical profession, then I sure as hell don't want him anywhere near me with a needle.

FQS9000
FQS9000

I am just fine with cheap dummies getting crappy tattoos from their buddies.  No real harm done to anybody and it ought to be perfectly legal.  The current law criminalizes what ought to be legal to the sole benefit of the current tattoo businesses.

That makes it obnoxious.

Pete Pepper
Pete Pepper

With tattoos, the old maxim is you get what you pay for.  While your buddy may throw some ink on you for twenty bucks, most likely its gonna look like you payed twenty bucks on it an you will end up forking over more to make it look right.I have my loyalties to Formula Ink and I have seen some tattoos they have had to fix from some fly by night guy in a backroom.  They are not expensive and go really good work.  You might as well just go to a shop with an artist you like and have it done right the first time instead of suffering through some really bad ink.  

FQS9000
FQS9000

Pimping out the entrepreneurs.  A lot easier than earning money by working for it and the more competitors you can run out of business the better.

This whole scheme is merely a way to limit competition and run up the cost instigated by existing businesses and sold to do-gooders who have never ever seen a regulation they didn't love.

The losers are the public who has to pay more and small time tatooers who can't earn an income.

Damn liberals, lawyers, legislators and industry weasels.  You ought to be able to buy a permit and hunt them.

Johnston4202003
Johnston4202003

     This bill was made up by the tattoo guild for the  purpose of  better health regulation not  to have more clientele for themselves.    To me that's  childish whining coming from most likely a "scratcher" whose portfolio wouldn't get him in the door of any decent tattoo shop. Cut the  hippie crap out about the government too. But i digress, the fact is, its illegal to tattoo out of the house anywhere in America, and  its fuckin easy here in  FL to walk into  a tattoo shop, even with a  sub par portfolio  and  be hired on the spot. Of coarse you only get about 25 to 30 % cut of the tattoo and good luck with getting return customers. Facts are,  you are lazy and couldn't handle a real apprenticeship because you were brought up with no morals or respect, and YOU are the "industry weasel" as you so elegantly put it.          The fact is that Florida is the least regulated of all 50 states.  I am from MA, and  there you need a two years apprenticeship, blood borne pathogen, first aid and CPR training. A college level anatomy class just to get your license. SO quit whining!!!     Secondly,  tattoos have always been expensive!!  Where the fuck have you been?? I have seen these 100 dollar half sleeves and  50 dollar portraits. To each his own if they  like it and think it resembles whom ever but i bite my tongue if ever asked.   on a side note:      An apprenticeship isn't just to teach you to take a needle and make a line on skin. A real apprenticeship not only teaches the art form  but the way to take care for the shop and  everything in it. And later when you open up your own shop its second nature to run it. Secondly  teaches you how to properly set up and  break down a station  with out cross contaminating everything as you go. Cause FYI:  Aids isn't the killer you really need to be afraid of, its hep C. Hep can stay alive but dormant for 2 weeks, HIV dies instantly upon hitting the air.  On the art side,  teaches an artist to take what was drawn or brought in by a client and turn it into a tattoo-able design that will last the ages.  Somethings that look good at the moment it is done can fall apart with years a wear on the skin.

Larry from Hollywood
Larry from Hollywood

 You're an idiot.  95% of regulations exist because the people being regulated failed to act responsibly in the first place, usually leaving someone sick, injured or ripped off.  There are scores of examples, the most recent being the "toxic tush" fake doctor who was injecting "Fix-a-Flat" into people's asses.  I'm sure she envisioned herself to be a "freelance artist" as well.

Every trade that potentially impacts public health is licensed and regulated, whether the licensee is a brain surgeon, paramedic, or hair stylist.  Similarly, dozens of skilled trades require certification and apprenticeship as well (electrician, carpenter, etc.).  Are you seriously suggesting that someone who uses invasive techniques via thousands of needle pricks should be held to a lesser professional standard than any of these other examples?

If you want to continue playing the role of the poor victim whose "artistic expression" and earning ability are being stifled by "Da Man", then restrict your "art" to drawing on people with a handful of Sharpie markers.  But if you want to be treated as a legitimately talented artist, then grow up and become professional about it the way thousands of others have done.

Besides, if it was YOUR arm rotting off with MRSA, I bet you'd be crying "There should've been a law!" and scrambling for one of those do-gooder liberal lawyers to file a $10 million liability suit on your behalf.

Pete Pepper
Pete Pepper

 You really do not know what you are talking about. 

 
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