Don’t Omit Tattoo Professionals From Development of Industry Requirements

by James Talmadge

Our goals have been unwavering since our inception: Representing Professional Tattoo Artists by ensuring that regulations reflect the current standards, and educating the public about tattoo safety.

Tattoo artists and tattooed people have often been portrayed in an unflattering light in the media. Tattoo artists are intelligent, caring, and passionate people, self-employed individuals and small business owners. We are working people who live in the state, our homes and families are here. These are not jobs that will not be outsourced or relocated to another state.

We care about the health and safety of the communities we work in, because they are the same communities we live in.

Our clients are a diverse range of everyday people, from nurses to police officers, teachers to college students. We have transitioned from the fringes of society to mainstream popular culture.

As professionals, we realize that the licensure was inevitable, and want to help ensure that it is effective as was intended. Collecting fees and putting our names on a list does nothing to ensure the welfare of the public. Violation of licensure is a class D misdemeanor, a $250 fine, which is less than the cost of the license and requisite training courses. Such measures are ineffective for discouraging illicit tattooers and the uninformed public who continue to put themselves at risk.

The original Bill introduced in January was simply for the mandatory communication of our board of Professional Tattooers with the Department of Public Health (DPH). Since the bill’s introduction we have been in several meetings with the DPH to refine the regulations and the amended bill. The latest draft has taken our professional insights, negated some of the most important ones, and left out the involvement of tattoo artists altogether, without whom none of this would be possible.

“The latest draft has taken our professional insights, negated some of the most important ones, and left out the involvement of tattoo artists altogether, without whom none of this would be possible.”

Tattoo artists in CT have periodically assembled in the past, tattooers in Hartford gathered with the City’s health department years ago to form their set of standards. This should have been used as a template for the state and other towns in Connecticut for forming the regulations, and even though these regulations are still in place today, they were ignored.

Unofficial meetings continued to occur periodically preceding licensure and since, until out of necessity, we finally formed our official non-profit organization. Granting CAPT mandatory involvement with the DPH ensures that the regulations are practical, effective and that excessive regulations don’t impose upon the businesses of those who have continued to tattoo safely since before licensure even existed. Our bill requires no additional funding from the State Budget. Our association is funded through membership fees and run completely by licensed Professional Tattoo Artists on a volunteer basis.

Our initiative of public tattoo safety education has been paramount in our efforts. We encourage people to choose a professional, and we encourage professionals to follow our artist standards. We have made our involvement public, to show the faces of the people who comprise CAPT, all of whom are working professionals who care to do better for our state.

A typical tattoo client might spend a few hours at the tattoo shop periodically. However, a tattoo artist is present all day every day, exposed to the environment in the tattoo shop.

Infectious diseases such as Hepatitis, HIV, and Tuberculosis are not things one develops a tolerance or immunity to. Rather the opposite, the more exposure the greater the probability of being at risk. So, tattoo artists develop a healthy respect for sanitary conditions and the dangers of cross contamination.

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) website:

A few major research studies have not shown hepatitis C to be spread through licensed, commercial tattooing facilities. However, transmission of hepatitis C (and other infectious diseases) is possible when poor infection-control practices are used during tattooing or piercing. Unregulated tattooing and piercing are known to occur in prisons and other informal settings and may put a person at risk of infection.

So, prior to the study, Professional Tattooers had already been taking adequate protective measures to combat the spread of bloodborne pathogens. We have identified what these safety procedures and environmental controls are and have used them to recommend practical applicable regulations that reflect the standards already present in modern professional tattoo establishments. These are also the things most likely to be overlooked or skipped by illicit underground tattooers, and therefore create a public health risk. We do not wish to impose further standards which may prove to be in excess or impractical, upon those who have already taken proper and effective protective measures.

Presently the laws are vague, adapted from other sources, and need refinement. For example, to be licensed, it is stated that a tattoo artists must prove completion of a course on Bloodborne Pathogens and Basic First Aid within the last three years. The First Aid certification is only valid for two years, the Bloodborne Pathogens is only valid for one year. When renewing a license online, it is asked that the course have been completed within the last six months.

These are confusing and inconsistent at best. In an era where not all states have licensing yet, it is a new law in Connecticut and needs to be refined. Under the current law, anyone who holds a tattoo technician license, regardless of experience, can teach an unlimited number of students simultaneously.

“Having artist involvement creates a system where feedback is not only collected, but used to create positive change in a timely and effective manner. Two way communication between CAPT and the DPH is necessary”

So, it can be your first day with a license, and without actually ever having done a single tattoo, you can teach a dozen, one hundred, theoretically thousands of people at once. This has led to people basically selling licenses to those who are unqualified, and are making thousands of dollars per license by exploiting these loopholes in the law. These are things that are common knowledge to tattoo artists, but the DPH wouldn’t know about without our involvement.

These regulations are relatively new, and need to be fine-tuned. Having artist involvement creates a system where feedback is not only collected, but used to create positive change in a timely and effective manner. Two way communication between CAPT and the DPH is necessary to ensure that we’re all working toward the same goals and to stay proactive in our efforts.

The necessity for an official organization is due to the rapid growth and change of our industry. As a provision for the future, we need regular communication between tattoo artists and the Department of Public Health.

Our association is open to all tattoo artists licensed in Connecticut and work in legitimate tattoo establishments. We have created a consensus of the professional values of those who care to embrace a higher standard of safety. Our members have various levels of experience ranging from first year tattooers to those who have been tattooing in the state for thirty years or more. Those with less experience now are the future of tattooing, being involved with forming regulations and understanding the need for and intent of those regulations continues our tradition of respect and commitment to integrity.


James Talmadge, Vice Chairman of the Connecticut Association of Professional Tattooers, Inc (CAPT), is a lifelong Connecticut resident and professional tattooer in the state for thirteen years.  This was submitted to the legislature’s Public Health Committee in regards to SB 1058, AN ACT CONCERNING THE LICENSURE OF TATTOO TECHNICIAN.  The bill was approved by the committee, amended and passed in the Senate on April 25, and awaits action in the House.  The latest version of the bill does not include a formal relationship between the Connecticut Association of Professional Tattooers and the Department of Public Health.