How old were you when you got your first tattoo? 18+ in Oregon
EUGENE, Ore. - If you are under 18 in Oregon, you can't legally get a tattoo.
But there are people who will tattoo you.
And those illegal arrangements carry a higher risk of disease.
Many people seek tattoos at state-licensed parlors, where the law mandates some health and safety standards.
"More people that are younger and older are coming into tattoo shops and realizing that it's more of an art," said Splat Ter, a tattoo artist at High Priestess in Eugene. "It's not some scary place you are going to go and get mistreated."
To get a tattoo in Oregon, you have to be 18 years old.
And to give a tattoo in Oregon, you've got to follow some rules: Tattooing is what's known as a "regulated profession." Like barbering, athletic training, midwifery and waste water sanitation, it's one of 18 occupations the Oregon Health Licensing Agency regulates.
But Splat knows people younger than that are getting inked.
Splat said he has had to turn people away if they weren't old enough for a tat.
But they may go ink themselves.
"People that are 15 want to get a tattoo," Splat said. "Because they cant get one in a studio, they'll go to somebody in a house or a party to get that tattoo."
That's not just illegal in Oregon: Splat thinks "it's horrible."
"There are some companies that will sell to just about anybody. Anybody will pick up a tattoo kit," he said.
Un-licensed tattoo artists may not follow state-mandated health guidelines.
"There's no proper sterilization, there's no proper wipe down, there's no proper way of knowing cross-contamination if you are going to pick something up from one of those places," Splat said.
A variety of infections can be transmitted through tattooing.
"One of the most concerning lately is hepatitis C from contaminated ink," said Dr. Patrick Luedtke, senior public health officer for Lane County.
Then there's the tattoo itself.
"When you are 15, you don't know what you want on your body for the rest of your life," Luedtke said. "Making a snap decision doing something like that and trying to be rebellious could get you a disease, or you could end up with something you really don't want there forever."