Illinois reduces tattoo age

By Bridget Maiellaro

Lawmakers lowered the legal age for tattoos early this year from 21 to 18, even after Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s objections in August 2005. After the law took effect on Jan. 1, business at local tattoo parlors substantially increased.

“People have been waiting since the day this law was made for it to be changed,” said Stump Cogdill, tattoo artist and owner of Altered Egos, 630 S. Fifth St. “Illinois tattoo artists needed money compared to the other surrounding states.”

Altered Egos has had 18-20 year-olds make up 50 percent of their sales since January. Last year, they accounted for zero percent. While some parlors gave tattoos to those under 21 without parental consent before the passing of the law, Altered Egos chose not to.

“We felt that they should have been able to have it anyway,” Cogdill said.

Nineteen year-old Kristen Elfstrand, sophomore in LAS, is one of many students who have gotten a tattoo since the law’s passing. Elfstrand had her nickname, “Kiki”, tattooed in cursive on her upper back, just below her neck earlier this month.

“I was going to wait until I was 21 because I didn’t want to go into the parlor with my parents,” Elfstrand said. “I wanted it to be something I did on my own, as an adult.”

Elfstrand plans on getting at least one more tattoo in the future.

Lindsay Naso, also a 19-year-old sophomore in LAS, was in Altered Egos this past weekend deciding if she truly wanted a tattoo. She spent almost an hour looking at her options.

“I don’t want to rush into making a decision,” Naso said. “I have to first decide what I want and then if I want that object on me for the rest of my life.”

State Rep. Jerry Mitchell (R-90), originally proposed the law in December 2004. Mitchell said that a consistent age limit for both tattooing and body piercing was essential so that shop owners and police could ensure that age restrictions were being enforced. He felt the law would give police more power to go after violators.

Gov. Blagojevich vetoed that idea last August because he felt that the age for receiving tattoos should remain at 21. He said that 18-year-olds do not have the proper judgment to make such a permanent decision.

“I think that while some people may not fully think things through, the majority of our younger population does,” Naso said. “He was wrong in his decision to veto by assuming we are not mature enough.”

Mitchell filed a motion to override Blagojevich’s veto in October 2005. The bill passed through both the Senate and the House with a 3/5 vote in each by November.

Cogdill said that Gov. Blagojevich should not have vetoed the bill.

“(The Senate and House) knew it needed to be done,” he said.

The law not only allows 18-year-olds to get tattoos, but also states that the penalty for unlawfully tattooing or piercing the body of a person under 18-years-old is a Class A misdemeanor, instead of the less severe Class C misdemeanor. Minors are only allowed on the premises of tattoo and piercing parlors when a parent or guardian accompanies them.

“I don’t see the point in not allowing minors to be in a tattoo parlor without a parent,” Elfstrand said. “It’s not like they are getting tattoos themselves. They are just watching.”

As of January 2006, 37 states have laws prohibiting adolescents from getting tattoos, according to the National Council of State Legislatures. Illinois has joined the Midwestern states Michigan, Minnesota, Indiana, Iowa, Ohio, and Wisconsin in allowing 18-year-olds to receive a tattoo without parental consent.