I ink ... therefore I am ... subject to state laws

Is it true that Oregon now has a Tattoo Commission? I thought the state was trying to cut down on boards and commissions.

If this is a health-related issue, aren't there already agencies that could deal with that? Or does the Tattoo Commission judge the designs to make sure that they're tastefully done?

— Wilson R., Medford

Tsk, tsk, Wilson, surely you should know that the new oversight organization is not called the "Tattoo Commission." It has a much more fashionable name: the Board of Body Art Practitioners. Doesn't that make you feel better about it already?

According to its page on the state website, www.oregon.gov, the Legislature created the board in 2011 "to address the increasing public protection issues related to emerging practices in the field."

Oregon has been ahead of the field in protecting the public from the horrors of bad tattoos. In 1993 it became one of the first states to regulate tattooing, and it began regulating body piercing in 1995. The people and businesses who do the poking apparently can be conveniently lumped into one category called body art practitioners, thus the new board's name.

Since tattooing requires someone to poke you repeatedly with a very sharp needle and to inject ink under your skin, and body piercing requires fewer pokes but a much bigger hole in your body, the state thought it best that there be a few safeguards.

For instance, until recently, anyone 18 or older with a high school education who completed basic first aid and a couple of classes could do body piercing. Since Jan. 1, however, according to the website, "applicants for initial licensure in body piercing must have completed 1,150 hours of theory and practical instruction in addition to 400 body piercing procedures, all under direct supervision of an experienced practitioner."

Sharp needles cause queasy sensations here in the Since You Ask Department of The Big Chickens. So we are happy that someone is looking out for those less-chicken people willing to go under the needle.

And imagine our surprise when we discovered that members of the board who are protecting the public from bad poking include not one, but two Rogue Valley residents: Molly Ballew, an electrologist from Ashland (and chairwoman of the board), and Daniel Laury, a Medford physician.

We didn't ask them, but we're sure they have no involvement in judging what goes on people's bodies, just how it goes on. However, based on some of the "body art" we've seen, maybe we can persuade them to expand their jurisdiction.

Send questions to "Since You Asked," Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by e-mail to youasked@mailtribune.com.

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