Tattoo Is Now Legal In Oklahoma
Oklahoma was the last state to legalize tattooing.
Tressa Madden, director of consumer protection at the state Department of Health, said her office has been swamped with inquiries about the licensing process.
"Build the rules, and they will come," said Madden, whose department is in charge of licensing tattoo artists and tattoo establishments.
"I try to return phone calls as fast as I can. We're just being busy, and we're working as hard as we can."
The health department hired an additional public-health specialist, and now has four people to help regulate the tattooing.
Requirements for a license include professional experience in tattooing or completion of an approved apprentice program. There is also a standardized test and requirements for certificates in CPR, first-aid and in dealing with bloodborne pathogens.
A surety bond of $100,000 is also required, along with an initial licensing fee of $1,000 and a $500 charge for annual renewal.
"The laws make it a little more difficult for the average Joe to pick up a tattoo machine and say he knows what he's doing," said Brandon Mull, a member of Oklahoma Tattooing and Piercing Association and the Oklahoma Body Art Coalition, both of which fought to change the state's tattoo laws.
"It's just going to make it all around safer for the public."
Mull started in 1997 asking the state Legislature to legalize the work he's done for 12 years.
He was arrested in 2003 for tattooing. He said he was filling out the paperwork for licensing and hopes to be approved by Wednesday.
State Rep. Al Lindley, D-Oklahoma City, introduced legislation to legalize tattooing.
"I'm relieved," Lindley said. "I was really surprised at the resistance, and it's a big relief now that my colleagues have seen the light and seen that the public had gotten sick and tired of seeing legislators dancing around this issue."
State Rep. John Wright, R-Broken Arrow, thinks legal tattooing will hurt the state's economy because employers are less likely to hire a job applicant who's tattooed.
"Our society as a whole still does not view tattoos in a favorable light," he said. "Many CEOs do not wish to have people working on their front lines who are overtly calling attention to themselves."
George Stratton, owner of Cutting Edge Tattoo in Arkansas City, Kan., said about 30 percent of his customers are Oklahomans who cross the state border for a legal tattoo.
He knows a portion of that business will slough off, but he predicted that many tattoo artists in Oklahoma won't have the experience or the money to meet state licensing requirements.
He said that if his business got bad:
"I'll move to Oklahoma and still have a jump ahead."
Information from: Tulsa World, http://www.tulsaworld.com