Under new public safety rules designed to prevent the spread of HIV and hepatitis, Missouri tattoo shops and piercing salons must now pass inspections and be licensed or else face misdemeanor charges. The Missouri Department of Economic Development established the Office of Tattooing, Body Piercing, and Branding, which sent out a mailing last month that informed shops of the new rules and provided license applications. Shop owners have 30 days from when they received the letters to comply. The new law requires the shops to follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines to ensure that equipment is sterilized, needles are changed, and each customer has a separate ink cartridge. Licenses will cost from $500 to $600 per business, depending on the services offered, and from $100 to $200 per operator. Health officials hope to have all tattoo and piercing businesses licensed by July 1.
"Our concern here is public safety," said Vanessa Beauchamp, executive director of the newly established office. "People always worry about the spread of hepatitis and AIDS. This is an invasive procedure. When you tattoo someone, you are drawing blood to the surface." Owners of tattoo and piercing businesses generally back the new law. "We are always fixing up stuff that unsanitary and unregulated people do," said Rick Winfield, owner of Class Act Tattooing and Body Piercing in St. Louis.