Proposal targets tattoos

January 07, 2004|by SCOTT BUTKI

Hagerstown City Council members on Tuesday said they were uncomfortable with a proposal that they said essentially would ban tattoo parlors in the city.

Under the proposed ordinance, both existing and new tattoo and body piercing businesses in Hagerstown would be required to have a physician or osteopath supervising when a customer was getting a tattoo.

The council, during its work session, instructed City Attorney Mark Boyer to revise the proposal.

City Administrator Bruce Zimmerman said a revised proposal probably would include some regulations of the industry, but not the requirement that a physician be present.


Washington County Health Officer William Christoffel told the council that, if approved, the proposal would reduce the chances that hepatitis would be spread in Washington County.

More than 800 people in Washington County have hepatitis, Christoffel said. National studies have shown a link between tattoos and the spread of hepatitis, he said.

Pressed by Councilman Kristin B. Aleshire, Christoffel said there was no evidence that hepatitis was being spread locally through tattoos or body piercings.

Councilman Lewis C. Metzner said he felt the city was using Christoffel's argument to try to ban certain businesses from downtown. He noted that the proposal originated with a Community Revitalization Committee.

Christoffel would be "irresponsible" if he did not make the argument he made, Metzner said, but there is no reason for the city to pass such a stringent requirement.

"The bottom line is, it would shut down the industry," he said.

Christoffel said there are three establishments in Hagerstown that ink tattoos.

Boyer said the city proposal is modeled after one in Ocean City, Md., which goes one step further and requires physicians to administer tattoos.

Metzner said there may be a legitimate health issue, but it should be one addressed by the county or state government. Should the city pass such an ordinance, businesses providing tattoos can move outside the city limits, he said.

Reached before the council's work session, Shane Foy, owner of Temple Art Tattoo Studio on Potomac Street, called the proposal "ridiculous."

Foy, who previously had not been told about the ordinance that might affect his business, attended the work session.

"I hate to see my livelihood taken away from me," he said afterward. He said he sees people around the city with inferior tattoos and that bothers him.

Foy said he does not object to the possibility of some government regulation to ensure the establishments are sanitary, but the idea of requiring direct supervision seems excessive.

Under the proposal, tattoo and body piercing businesses would have to be licensed by the city to do business. The annual license would cost $500.

Businesses would have 90 days to comply with the requirements of the ordinance.

The proposal bans giving tattoos or body piercings to people with hepatitis B or C, HIV or AIDS.

The proposal would prohibit businesses from operating between the hours of 11 p.m. and 6 a.m.

Violation of the proposal, as presented Tuesday, could result in a fine of up to $500 and/or imprisonment not to exceed 90 days.

The Herald-Mail Articles