Unlicensed basement tattoo artist shut down
Published Wednesday, March 7, 2012 9:23AM PST
Health authorities on Vancouver Island have shut down an unlicensed basement tattoo artist after complaints he tattooed girls as young as 14 without parental permission.
Grace Figueiredo contacted CTV's Steele on Your Side after her 14-year-old daughter came home with a Chinese character tattooed on her hip. The teen said she had been inked by Douglas Hughes, who tattoos from his brother's home in Langford.
"I was livid," Figueiredo said. "I'm still a bit livid."
Hughes, who sports a faux autopsy incision and lists his favourite websites on Facebook as "I Hate Cops" and "Smoke Weed Everyday," does not have a business license with the City of Langford.
Tattoo artists are regulated through the provincial ministry of health, along with body piercers, tanning and hair salons. While there are no formal age restrictions for tattooing, the province recommends that operators require minors to obtain parental consent. Bylaws for the Capital Regional District, where Figueiredo and her daughter live, stipulate that no minor is allowed to be tattooed unless their guardian is present and gives written consent. It says no one under the age of 16 is allowed to be tattooed whatsoever.
Figueiredo contacted West Shore RCMP, who told her it was a civil matter, while health officials said it was a grey area. Frustrated, she contacted Steele on Your Side.
"Nobody wants to take responsibility for the fact that a 30-something year old man has tattooed not one, but more than one child who is under the age of 16. In the basement of his house," she said.
Figueiredo's daughter wasn't the only other minor allegedly tattooed by the unlicensed artist. Several 14-year-olds who attend Mount Douglas High School in Victoria claim to have been tattooed by the same man.
Hughes told CTV News that he does tattoo teenagers -- but only with their parents' permission. In a telephone interview, he denied doing the tattoo of Figueiredo's daughter.
Following our investigation, environmental protection officers from Vancouver Island Health Authority handed Hughes a cease-and-desist order, forcing him to shut down until he can meet health and safety standards. They want to inspect the premises, saying unlicensed tattoo artists can put customers at risk of everything from hepatitis to HIV and bacterial infections.
"You can even get a fungal infection thrown in on top of that, and some of the worst ones, people have actually got a crop of warts on top of their tattoo…so I wouldn't suggest it," said VIHA Chief Medical Officer Dr. Richard Stanwick.
Sparky Adamson, who runs Urge Tattoos in Victoria, refuses to do teen tattoos even if their guardians are present.
"It's an adult activity and I just don't like to tattoo people that aren't legally an adult. I think it's a rite of passage -- I think people should have to wait to be able to do," he said.
Tattoo removal specialist Pete McKay, who also works at Urge, has seen a lot of teenage tattoo regret.
"What I thought was cool when I was 18 definitely I don't think it's cool now," he said.
Stanwick says beyond the cool factor is the fact that teenage skin becomes wrinkled with age.
"Just think what you're going to look like 25 years from now when that dragon more looks like a toad on your stomach," he said.
Figueiredo's daughter has been grounded for a month.
Recent research from the University of B.C. found that eight per cent of teens between 12 and 19 had a tattoo, but 21 per cent want one.
Watch CTV tonight for the full report from Lynda Steele, and reaction from Island health authorities…