Chicago lowers legal age for tattoos to 18

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Anthony Adams in studio showing is Chicago tattoos. | Rich Hein~Sun-Times

Chicago teenagers will soon be able to get tattoos after the City Council passed an ordinance that lowers the legal age from 21 to 18.

The ordinance was passed with no objections or discussion on Tuesday. The Health and Environmental Protection Committee, chaired by Ald. George Cardenas (12th), backed the ordinance during a May 12 meeting. It was proposed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel in December.

While relaxing age restrictions to get tattoos, the ordinance will crack down on minors who want tongue or lip piercings or go to tanning parlors.

Until now, minors could receive tongue or lip piercings with written parental consent. Now, a written consent form from the commissioner of public health will be required.

Minors under 18 will be banned from tanning parlors, regardless of permission from parents or guardians.

Council members said lowering the age to receive tattoos posed no health risks, but tanning can pose the risk of cancer among younger teens.

Chicago’s legal age to get a tattoo has been 21, but the Illinois Legislature lowered the legal age from 21 to 18 in 2006. Many Chicago parlors had not been aware of the city’s higher requirement.

Adrian Montoya, a tattoo artist at Animal Farm Tattoo, 2455 W. Armitage Ave., said he does not anticipate that the ordinance will affect business because the legal age of 21 was never enforced.

“It’s been 18 as far as the state’s concerned, so it’s pretty much just the city lining up with the state Legislature,” Montoya said. “The city hasn’t enforced it, so it hasn’t been an issue, so now they’re aligned. It’s just to avoid confusion.”

The ordinance also allows for the Board of Health to enact rules classifying and setting fines for violations of this law as high as $10,000 for each offense.

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