The Dangers of Illegal Tattoos

DECEMBER 12, 2006 -- POSTED AT 10:00 P.M. CST

JONESBORO, AR -- An amateur tattoo can lead to all kinds of health problems, from simple infections to deadly blood borne diseases.

"The problem with a lot of people is they don't know what the dangers are. They don't know about sterilization," says Jimmy Vick, a licensed tattoo artist.

Vick owns The Zen Factory, a tattoo parlor in Downtown Jonesboro. He says the underground world of illegal tattoos is more popular than you may think. It's often times appealing because of the cheaper costs and convenience, but the end result can be risky.

"You go to a tattoo shop, you're paying a little bit more, but good tattoos aren't cheap, and cheap tattoos aren't good. That's the bottom line," says Vick.

And to do this professionally, Vick says you need to know more than just how to work a needle.

"It's dangerous. We're regulated by the state and we have to do certain things to make sure our stuff is sterile. Those other guys aren't regulated by anybody. They can use the same needle twice. Think about, Hepatitis, Staph, AIDS, you can die from all those," says Vick.

And with those risks, a tattoo artist has to be licensed through the state.

"We do a six month apprenticeship, we have to take a health department test, you have to do a practical test in front of a state health worker and that's to ensure that you don't transmit any diseases," says Jeremy LeBlanc, a licensed tattoo artist at The Zen Factory.

Both artists agree, for your own safety and protection, you should always ask to see the tattoo artists' license and sterilization procedures. For example at The Zen Factory, they have an entire room just for sterilizing their equipment, making sure their clients stay safe.

"The chance of spreading not only infection, but blood borne diseases, things like that. The risks are a whole lot greater," says LeBlanc.

Not only do you have to be licensed through the state to work as a tattoo artist, but you can't just work out of your home. All tattoo parlors must be state licensed and regulated.