Unexplained proposal could ban tattooing over scars

Published 3:52 pm Monday, May 13, 2019


The Advocate-Messenger

Kentucky could soon outlaw getting tattoos over scars — an inexplicable move that could make life worse for many people who just want to lead normal lives.

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Tattooing over scars is one way that people who used to engage in self-harm put those destructive behaviors behind them. It’s how people who have had surgeries that leave unpleasant scars reduce their appearance. It’s how some cancer survivors cover their mastectomy scars.

“It’s really a healing process,” Louisville tattoo artist Alonzo Chappell told Insider Louisville this month. “I mean, a lot of people come to have closure on maybe a scar or some kind of burn.”

But a proposal from the Cabinet for Health and Family Services would modify the state’s tattooing regulations to state simply, “Tattooing of scarred skin is prohibited.”

This change makes no sense, and the state — so far — isn’t even trying to explain itself. There’s no explanation of the reasons for such a prohibition in the proposal and when 89.3 WFPL in Louisville asked the cabinet about it, “spokesman Doug Hogan didn’t give a specific reason behind the change, only saying that the rules haven’t been updated for many years.”

Hogan also told the radio station that “public comments are being accepted through the end of May. DPH will review and analyze all comments and then determine what changes, if any, need to be made to the regulations.”

Some have pointed out the short statement isn’t specific enough to ensure tattoos themselves aren’t considered scars, meaning the regulation could also wind up prohibiting covering up old tattoos with new ones.

There is one kind of scar — a keloid scar — that happen when skin has been burned, cut or scraped, which it isn’t good to tattoo over, according to an Atlanta doctor interviewed for the WFPL story.

But if that’s what the state was attempting to address, it should have done so specifically. The state needs to do a better job explaining what regulations it’s considering and — importantly — why.

Inserting six words without further explanation that create such a blanket prohibition on something that can have such positive purposes is sloppy and shows a lack of thought on the part of whoever was writing the proposed regulations. Fortunately, others spent the time to read what was proposed and journalists helped bring what was found to light.

Now, the public can do its part to make the state explain itself and stop this regulation from moving forward as written.

Anyone who wants to read the proposed regulations in their entirety can visit bit.ly/KYtattoos19. Anyone who wants to tell the state what they think about the regulations has until the end of May to email chfsregs@ky.gov. They can also attend a public hearing scheduled for 9 a.m. on Tuesday, May 28, at the cabinet’s main office, 275 E. Main St., Frankfort.