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Alicia Simms: A tattoo artist's plea

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I am a tattoo artist at Trouble Bound Studio. I take what I do as a profession very seriously for my own health and the health of my clients - the people who basically put blind trust in me that I am going to give them a beautiful piece of work they will have with them forever in the cleanest, sterile environment possible.

I understand and accept that tattoos are not for everyone, but most often when any media debate surfaces about a tattoo or piercing (the death of the girl in 2006, the 14-year-old [recently] pierced without parental consent) the issues are shadowed by people's personal feelings of disgust on the topic altogether and the major point gets lost: that regardless of how Old Man So n' So feels about body modifications, we are a legitimate profession that is desperately crying out to be regulated so we can ensure the health and cleanliness of what we do.

We are not your cousin's sketchy brother in his Mom's basement with equipment ordered from the internet using unsterile instruments who is disposing of contaminated needles in household garbages. But those people exist in more numbers than we can comprehend and there is nothing stopping them.

We are trained professionals who've endured years of honing our craft, updating our techniques and using medical grade sterilization equipment, but all a client has to go on is that we can actually show them our equipment and the process and procedures we follow to ensure there is no cross-contamination between clients - and our word.

I have completed blood-borne pathogen seminars. I annually attend tattoo conventions worldwide meeting new artists, learning about new aftercare productions on the market and the newest in sterilization techniques and practices. I am a tradesperson who had to complete a carefully monitored apprenticeship before ever putting needle to skin. But where is my proof or recognition? The government regulates an industry that serves you food, but not one that exposes you to serious diseases.

I am fortunate enough to work for a man who is a veteran of our industry who comes from a province that has regulations and has brought them here to St. John's in his shop. We do enforce an age limit where a client MUST be 18 regardless of parental consent and we do this for several reasons.

So help us help our province to bring awareness to this issue before someone has to go public with being infected from an ill-gotten tattoo from a basement or a kid's face is permanently paralyzed from a piercing their friend thought they could do with a safety pin.

Alicia Simms is a tattoo artist at Trouble Bound Studio in St. John's.

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