Teens and tattoos. How much should the government be involved?

This is a subject that’s a bit off the beaten path, but still worth a look. NPR has a report out this week which deals with doctors recommendations when it comes to the subject of teenagers and tattoos or body piercings. Much of it comes from the American Academy of Pediatrics, which leads one to believe that they’re talking about children versus 18 or 19 year olds. I had been under the impression that children couldn’t get tattoos, but it turns out that this varies from state to state. In fact, in most of them you can allow kids to be tattooed with the consent (or sometimes physical presence) of the parent or guardian.

That might be of growing concern to people because it turns out the millennials are going hog wild for skin art. The number of younger adults with ink has shot up significantly in recent years.

38 percent of millennials have at least one tattoo, according to the Pew Research Center, and 23 percent have a piercing somewhere other than an earlobe. That compares to just 6 percent of boomers with tattoos, and 1 percent with other piercings.

The nation’s pediatricians, who want teenagers and young adults to be aware of potential health issues with tattoos and piercings, released their first-ever recommendations on health and safety on Monday.

The report finds that most people who have a tattoo (86 percent) have never regretted getting one, and 30 percent says it makes them feel sexier.

The AAP has all of the usual (and sensible) medical precautions which would apply to anyone. Make sure the tattoo artist is certified, wears clean, new gloves, is using fresh needles and ink from sealed packages and provides proper care instructions while it heals. But that really doesn’t address the underlying question of whether or not this is a good idea.

They spoke with one owner of a tattoo parlor named Brian Keith Thompson who actually tries to steer potential customers who are 18 or 19 away from his business.

Even though he owns a tattoo parlor, Thompson says he often counsels teenage clients against tattoos that are easily visible on the hands, neck and fingers. “I’ll tell them no, you’re 19, you should wait,” he says, adding that many professions are still conservative when it comes to tattoos.

“Definitely stay away from the face,” says Thompson. “We call that the job stopper; if you don’t want to get employed, tattoo your face.” And understand that tattoo removal by laser is painful, difficult, expensive and only partially effective.

Even for a subject such as this one which feels like it should be obvious, I’m not in favor of additional regulations beyond those required to make sure the shops are clean, free of disease and operated as safely as any other procedure where you’re opening up human skin and causing bleeding. (And yes, in case you’ve never gotten one, you do bleed when you get inked.) It should be left up to the states to determine what age is appropriate, but first and foremost it is the job of the family to guide their children along sensible paths.

I got my first tattoo (I have eight total) at the age of 18. I was in the Navy and in the port of Halifax, Nova Scotia. More than forty years later it still looks pretty good if you ask me. I’ve never regretted it, but I also never got any in places which were immediately visible if I was wearing normal business attire, including short sleeve shirts. And I certainly never got one on my face. These things can and perhaps will have an effect on your employment prospects in the future.

But getting back to the regulatory angle as well as the overall wisdom of it, assuming you are of legal age and mentally competent to give consent, the ultimate responsibility still falls on you. If you decide to go get some teardrops tattooed on your cheek, that’s your right of individual expression. You’ll probably have limited your future job options to nothing other than joining a gang and slinging meth, but hey… it’s a free country.