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Parental guidance: No tattoos for minors

A man shows off his tattoos during the

A man shows off his tattoos during the St. Petersburg International tattoo and body-art festival late June 19, 2011. Can minors legally get a tattoo without parents' permission? Credit: Kirill KudryavtsevAFP/Getty Images

Q. My teenager is talking about getting a tattoo. He can't get one without my permission, can he?

A. Actually, he can't even get a tattoo with your permission, according to New York State law. "It is violation of section 260.21 of New York State Penal Law to tattoo minors under the age of 18, regardless of parental consent," according to a state Department of Health Web page regarding "Body Art."

"You're committing a crime if you do this," says Peter Constantakes, Department of Health spokesman. The tattoo artist would be the one punished for the misdemeanor, not the parent or child, he says. The rationale behind the restriction: A tattoo is a permanent marking in indelible ink, and the procedure has potential medical risks associated with it, such as infection, or even the spreading of hepatitis if not done in a sterile manner, Constantakes says.

Kids try to hoodwink tattoo artists into decorating them anyway, says Rob White, owner of Cliff's Tattoos in Centereach. "Every day, they try to bring in fake ID," he says. But his establishment will accept only a New York State license, a passport or other documents not easily doctored, he says. "We won't take a high school ID." He could lose his license or face other penalties if he tattooed a minor, he says.

Sometimes, parents even come in with their kids and give him a hard time about the law, White says. "They say, 'I'm the parent, it's our choice,' " he says. "I say, 'Talk to your legislator.' "

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