State may put imprint on teen tattoo debate Bills, health code changes considered as safeguards

November 08, 1996|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

Dundalk's legislators are jumping into the debate over minors receiving tattoos, planning to submit bills in next year's General Assembly session that would outlaw tattooing those under 18 statewide without parental approval.

Meanwhile, the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene is preparing rules that would require sterile needles and other health standards for tattoo shops, said Dr. Diane Matuszak, deputy director of Community Health Surveillance.

"Our focus is informed consent covering any body adornment procedure" -- including body piercing -- and infection control, Matuszak said,

The moves are the result of continuing controversy over tattooing in eastern Baltimore County.

In one case, a Dundalk woman complained about a bulldog tattooed on her 13-year-old son at a North Point Boulevard flea market despite her objections. In another, residents opposed a new tattoo parlor in the 7500 block of Belair Road.

This week, Perry Hall County Councilman Vincent J. Gardina introduced a bill that would outlaw tattooing of people under 18 without parental consent. Violators could face a $500 fine and 90 days in jail.

Baltimore has a similar law, with a potential $50 penalty and no jail time.

"I wanted to take the initiative" and not wait for the General Assembly, said Gardina.

Dundalk Delegate Joseph J. "Sonny" Minnick said he will introduce the statewide bill with his fellow 7th District delegates, John S. Arnick and Jake Mohorovic. The bill would require that parents be present and give consent before anyone under 18 is tattooed. The penalty for violation would be a fine of up to $5,000, Minnick said.

Dundalk state Sen. Norman R. Stone Jr., said he will submit a similar bill in the state Senate.

The new state health department regulations are being completed, Matuszak said.

Bruce Benkert, proprietor of the controversial county tattoo parlor on Belair Road called "Mr. B's Tattoos," said he welcomes the new efforts.

"There are a lot of dirty shops out there," he said, adding that regulations are needed to protect those in the industry who are doing things right. He said he will not tattoo anyone younger than 16 and requires parents to be present before he works on 16- or 17-year-olds.

Lorraine Gordon, a nurse leading the Linover Community Association opposition to Mr. B's, and Sally Dietrich, the mother of the Dundalk boy, want full licensing of tattoo artists.

Gordon said people who cut hair or do facials are licensed and regulated, but not tattoo artists.

Dorothy McMann, president of the Perry Hall Community Association and a Gordon ally, said children sometimes have to be protected from their own impulses.

"They're ridiculous," she said about tattoos, and the current body art craze. "As you get older, you realize what stupid mistakes you make. I don't understand it."

Pub Date: 11/08/96

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