Tattoo Artists Rally on Long Island Against New Ink Law

A tattoo artist at work (Photo by Michael Deschenes)

Tattoo artists rallied Wednesday in Centereach to urge New York State lawmakers to change a new law that they say would adversely impact their businesses by driving up costs and reducing quality.

The new law requires tattoo artists to use more expensive prepackaged, sealed ink shots that have lesser quality than the inks that artists currently use, which come in large bottles and can be poured into single-use disposable ink caps. Tattoo artists held a news conference at Cliff’s Tattoo, Inc. to persuade the legislature to amend the law before it goes into effect in three months.

“While driving the prices up, and driving our customers out, not only will they be going to other states,” said Michael O’Herien, owner of Revolution Tattoo Co. in Pearl River, “but it is also another concern that they will be going to elusive sources—people tattooing outside of their homes, or out of their garage.”

Passed in June, the law takes effect Dec. 12. Ostensibly, it is aimed at preventing the spread of Hepatitis C. But tattoo artists argue that the current standard industry practice is approved by the state health department. They are also calling for a statewide unified licensing and permitting process.

“This new law is an important step toward preventing the spread of infectious diseases and in holding accountable those who don’t take the proper precautions,” said Gov. Andrew Cuomo in a statement when he signed the bill into law last month.

The law also codified the industry practice of tattoo artists only using single-use needles for the same reason. But critics argue that if the law’s ink rule drives up the price of tattoos, it may drive consumers to unregulated home-based tattoo artists whose practices may be less sanitary—possibly having the opposite effect of the law’s intention to limit infections.

Opponents have formed an online petition that had nearly 50,000 signatures as of this post urging the state legislature to fix the law before December.

“I strongly support changing the wording of the legislation regarding the process by which ink is used,” said New York State Sen. Phil Boyle (R-Bay Shore). “We need to be willing to work on legislation that not only promotes the health and safety of consumers, but protects the interests of our business community as well.”