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Polis Report

Piercing Remarks

By Michael Learmonth

A 16-year-old girl comes home with a surgical-steel stud rattling behind her teeth in Lancaster, a suburban town in the northeast corner of L.A. County. Her mom freaks out and calls George Runner, her newly elected Republican assemblyman, and demands to know if there is any law prohibiting minors from getting body piercings without a parent's consent.

To her dismay, there is none. But the concerned parent will soon have her satisfaction. At his constituent's urging, Runner introduced AB 99, which will make it a misdemeanor for "any person to perform or offer to perform body piercing ... upon a person under the age of 18 years" unless accompanied by a parent or guardian.

Introduced on March 4, the bill is sailing through both houses and should be on the governor's desk within the month. It is coupled with another bill, AB 186, introduced by Santa Rosa Democrat Valerie Brown, that would require body-piercing salons to register with the county; and it directs the California Conference of Local Health Officers to "establish sterilization, sanitation and safety standards for persons engaged in the business of tattooing, body piercing or permanent cosmetics."

Becky Warren, a legislative aide to Runner, drew up AB 99. "We view this as a parental rights issue," Warren says. "The parent has the right to know when someone is going to use a needle and poke a hole in your child."

The new bills will extend the existing law in California that prohibits minors from getting tattoos without a parent's consent.

"Body piercing has increased in popularity in recent years, and the law didn't reflect that," Warren says. The new laws should take effect Jan. 1, 1998. Starting then, piercers risk a $250 fine if they take aim at the navel, eyebrow, nostril or nether regions of a minor. As for ears, however, poke away.

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From the August 14-20, 1997 issue of Metro.

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