A bill written and sponsored by Democrats that further regulates the tattoo industry in New York won the support of Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D.) but may now collapse as a petition pointing out the bill’s shortcomings has garnered more than 41,000 signatures.
Cuomo signed the bill, which forces tattoo artists to use only single-use ink capsules, in August—but apparently failed to consult a single tattoo artist before doing so.
A major concern for tattoo artists is perfecting their ink mixtures. One New York City artist told Gothamist that professionals "spend their entire career seeking pigments and perfecting recipes for ink."
The regulation would force the tattoo parlors to buy mass-produced single-use capsules, taking the artistry out of the industry, critics say.
According to the petition, "single use, prepackaged inks" are "incredibly expensive and not offered by any of the better quality brands of ink." The prepackaged inks are also only available in certain pigments.
The law mandates that the ink for each separate tattoo must come from "a sealed and pre-filled package of ink that is only intended for a single use."
Tattoo artists are demanding that the bill be re-worded to allow for parlors to purchase larger bottles of ink and place it in small disposable caps—as is currently standard practice.
One tattoo artist who says he needs his work to "feed [his] three children" told Newsday that he currently owns "thousands of dollars’ worth of ink" and is "known to put out 20 or 30 [colors] when I’m tattooing somebody."
Tattoo artist Brad Stevens of NY Adorned said that the restrictions are so absurd that anybody "reputable" in the industry would be forced to break the law.
"Cheap, mass produced tattoo inks can contain plastics and many tend to fade or completely fall out of the skin eventually," said Stevens. "If this goes through you can expect every reputable tattooer to either have a hidden stash of their preferred, time tested ink, or simply decide to take their business out of New York."
Though the Democratic lawmakers in New York who wrote the bill claim they consulted many tattoo artists, they say were surprised by the number of calls they were receiving from those concerned in the tattoo industry.
Assemblyman Kenneth Zebrowski, who called tattooing an "unregulated industry" that needs "regulation in order to protect consumers," now says that he is open to lifting the restrictions on ink use.
Tattoo artists say that "unnecessary" regulation is not the way to address health concerns.
"The key to safe tattooing is annual education requirements, teaching artists in the industry to use universal precautions and learn the newest and best practices to prevent cross-contamination and prevent the spread of dangerous infectious diseases," the petition reads.