Underage tattoo parties have parents worried

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- A new trend has hit East Tennessee and your teen could be in danger.
We're talking about tattoo parties with underage kids. We talked with a teenage girl and her mom who are warning others about the dangers.

Taylor Oneal was just going to hang out with her older sister at a party.
When she got there everyone was getting ink.

"I didn't know it was going to be tattoo party, but everyone was there and I wanted me one," she says.

So although she was underage she went for it.

"If you look at it, it's all up and down. It's not even straight and the letters are messed up and halfway missing inside of them," Oneal says.

She says a man who claimed to be licensed from Ohio tattooed everyone there, one after another. There were at least 20 people in all, and several were underage like Taylor.

"He already had the needle out and just swiped my back and started," Oneal says.

Taylor posted a picture of her tattoo on Facebook, and when her mom saw it, she was worried about the process and the man who had done it.

"I was just really upset," says Sharon Oneal. "He added me on Facebook and I went on and seen he had been In prison and that's where he learned to do tattoos. That's what scared me."

She immediately took her daughter to the doctor to get blood tests to make sure she didn't have hepatitis or HIV. Taylor's tests came back negative.

"I was really relieved. It was a big relief for me," Taylor says.

The health department says underage tattoo parties with unlicensed artists, or "scratchers," are a big problem in our area. Why? It's about the money -- about $50 for what would normally cost $200 at a tattoo shop.

And that has legit tattoo shops upset. Kellie White, co-owner of Imagine That Tattoo says, "Everything we use is single use. That's what you want to look for is single use. Single use needle, tubes and ink caps. And you can't guarantee that if you're sitting at someone's kitchen table."

As for Taylor, she says she's learned her lesson. And she says she can't wait until she's 18 to fill in the tattoo she hates so much.

"I wouldn't get one until you're 18 from a professional place because you never know if you're getting diseases or if the person is lying or not," she says.

The health department says if a scratcher is caught they find the person and try to get them licensed. The philosophy behind licensing these unlicensed tattoo operators is that since they're going to do it anyway -- it's better to get them licensed. Operators enroll in a day long course, then they work under a tattoo artist as an apprentice for a year.

Tattoo kits on the internet go for about $99 dollars, so if you're thinking of getting some ink, the health department says it's important to be sure the artist is licensed. Minors also need to have parental permission if they are under 18.

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