Originally created 12/09/96

Restrict disfigurement

In the cover story of our teen section the other day, a local young man regaled readers with stories about the deep meaning of his tattoos as he received his 17th such piece of "body art" and displayed his pierced tongue for a reporter.

No longer the province of sailors, bikers and convicts, tattoos are one of those fads with great attraction to teens, who by nature are drawn to skate close to the edge of propriety while approaching the limits of adulthood.

Fortunately, there are limits. Tattoo parlors are outlawed in South Carolina altogether; and teens in Georgia must wait until age 18 to have their skins injected with ink. For something that literally lasts a lifetime, it's not too much to ask for such a decision to be postponed until legal (if not actual) adulthood.

But tattoos aren't the limit to bodily disfigurement: body piercing is a fashion rage, with branding and "ritual scarring" on the rise. These procedures are largely unregulated - with no sanitary safeguards or minimum-age rules.

It's just about impossible to convince a teen that appearance, particularly on first impression, can have an immediate, detrimental effect on his or her ability to earn a living. Bizarre personal ornamentation sends a rebellious message that most businesses want no part of.

With no law in place requiring parental consent, there's little to prevent misguided kids from making momentously ruinous decisions (which mom and dad may find out about only when they have to pay for a trip to the doctor to treat subsequent infections).

The Peach and Palmetto state legislatures next year should look into expanding the tattoo laws to cover these new forms of destructive ornamentation, at least requiring the human canvas to reach legal adulthood before subjecting him- or herself to some iron-wielding "artist."

Some kid's productive future may depend on it.

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