New body art laws take effect Monday

SEVERAL OF Ohio’s laws in regards to tattooing and body piercing have been revamped, and the new laws are set to take effect at the beginning of September.

Many of the laws regarding body modification in Ohio were written in the 1990s and thus were severely outdated in comparison to the industry today. The laws were rewritten by Ohio lawmakers and health officials who have been working in conjunction with the Association of Body Art Professionals (ABAP), of which John “Sweet Chuck” Schorr ,of Hot Rod Tattooing in Martins Ferry, is a very active member.

“The biggest thing that we looked into was disposable tattoo and piercing equipment,” Sweet Chuck said. “When we were writing these new regulations, we found out that disposable equipment is actually illegal in the State of Ohio, only because when the law was written in 1998, disposable tattoo equipment didn’t exist; there was no industry for that.”

The new laws, however, have been written in accord with modern standards of the industry, and myriad terms in the bylaws have been analyzed and changed. According to Sweet Chuck, about 90 percent of tattooers currently use disposable equipment, which includes tattoo and piercing needles and tattoo tubes. The laws have simply been updated to reflect this change in the industry so that shops can now use the disposable equipment legally.

Another related law that has been changed regards the packaging process for this disposable equipment as well.

“Disposable equipment that is used in invasive processes has to be packaged differently now regardless of the industry, whether it’s tattooing or piercing or health care or whatever,” Sweet Chuck said. “If you’re selling something that gets used once and thrown away, it has to be packaged in a manner that the manufacturer is accountable for the sterilization process.”

Sweet Chuck stated that state legislators have been very progressive and cooperative with rewriting the laws because they realize that tattoos and body piercings are a very serious issue when it comes to public health. A process that should legislatively take 18 months at the very least has been completed in about five, and that’s a big step in the right direction for the industry.

The ABAP has been working hard to get professionals within the industry up to speed in regards to the new laws. At the request of the State of Ohio, the ABAP has been holding workshops and seminars across the state to explain the new laws to shop owners in Ohio and provide information about what changes the shops will have to make to be in accordance with the new laws.

Aside from the changes regarding disposable equipment, several other substantial changes have also been made with the laws. For instance, all shops in the State of Ohio will now be required to have an infection control plan (or exposure control plan) in place.

About the infection control plans, Sweet Chuck stated, “Basically that is a ‘this is what happens when this happens’ book. You come up with every situation where there could possibly be a contamination in your studio and you write a protocol for it. I’ve had one of those for 11 years. I was the only shop in the state that had one, and now it’s a law.”

Another change involves the sterilization methods used by many studios on their non-disposable equipment. Many studios currently use some form of autoclave; however, studios will now be required to have an autoclave with some kind of drying cycle as well. An autoclave is a pressure chamber used to sterilize equipment and supplies by subjecting them to high pressure saturated steam.

“Autoclaves aren’t all the same, and you have to have an autoclave that forces dry air into your chamber and dries your packages,” Sweet Chuck said. “If you take (the packages) out the autoclave when they’re wet, you’re just immediately contaminating them.” He explained that tattoo and piercing needles are both hollow tubes, and that without a drying cycle on the autoclave, water can remain inside the tubes, which creates a paradise for bacteria to thrive.

“My opinion is an infection control plan and making people sterilize with equipment that actually does what its supposed to be doing are probably two ways that the state government will save lives, literally,” Sweet Chuck said.

Some of the other numerous changes to the laws are the specification of certain grades of stainless steel and titanium that can be used for body piercing and implanted jewelry, the requirement of studios to provide both oral and written aftercare instructions to customers, the requirement of tattoo artists to keep track of what pigments of ink they are using and the requirement of suppliers and manufacturers to provide documentation of the sterilization procedures used on equipment.

Sweet Chuck explained that shops across the state will be given a set amount of time to get everything in accord with the new laws, and that more changes will be coming to the industry in the future.

For more information about the new laws, please visit the ABAP’s website at

Scott can be reached at