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A sticky legal situation

Stick and poke tattoos cause health concerns

Photo+illustration+by+Grace+Farley
Photo illustration by Grace Farley

Photo illustration by Grace Farley

Photo illustration by Grace Farley

Evelyn Nelson

According to the Minnesota Department of Health, stick and poke tattoos have become a dangerous craze for adolescents, who turn to this form of expression despite the risks.

According to Catherine Lloyd, manager of both the Health Occupations Program and Mortuary Science Section of the Minnesota Department of Health, the Body Art Program regulates the laws surrounding stick and poke tattoo art and oversees the repercussions if the procedures are not performed by a professional technician in a licensed establishment.

Lloyd said she helps regulate these laws and encourages their enforcement.

“It is illegal to tattoo anyone under the age of 18, and also persons who provide tattooing or create body art should always be licensed by our agency,” Lloyd said.

“We as an agency don’t recommend these do-it-yourself tattoos because body artists should be licensed by us, and it should be done in a licensed establishment.”

According to the Minnesota Statutes, misdemeanors for underage tattooing without a license include a fine of up to $200.

Junior Grace Adams-Maass said although she understands why people get stick and poke tattoos, she believes they are dangerous.

“If you try hard to keep it clean and sterile then it won’t be that bad, but they don’t always turn out perfectly. People can execute them to make them look good, but other times they fade quickly so they don’t look good for a longer period of time,” Adams-Maass said.

Body Art Program representative at the Department of Health Rishu Garg said he thinks the younger demographic should be informed about possible illnesses arising from do-it-yourself tattoos.

“There are bloodborne pathogens that are associated with this procedure if it is not done in a sterile way or in an unsanitary way. Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C (and) HIV are among the most deadly infections that a person can receive if the procedure is not done correctly,” Garg said.

Junior Isaak Kimmel said he believes if students wish to get a tattoo, they should wait to get it done professionally.

“If you are going to get a tattoo, you might as well get a tattoo that is cool and high quality,” Kimmel said. “If it is going to be low quality then it is probably not worth it.”

Lloyd said the Department of Health should seek to educate parents about the legality of stick and poke tattoos.

“It is the parents that end up being truly involved when someone under the age of 18 comes home with a tattoo,” Lloyd said. “We could certainly come up with a communication plan or maybe do some research on how to best provide information to parents and students about this whole body art industry.”

Senior Liam Sivanich said he believes everyone is entitled to their personal expression and hopes they will respect individuals’ choices. 

“If your buddy has a tattoo or a stick and poke, that doesn’t necessarily mean he is bad or a rebel, he just has a tattoo,” Sivanich said.

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A sticky legal situation