New rule bans minors from getting tattoos

China's long-awaited regulation to ban minors from getting tattoos will not only better prevent youth from regretting impulsive behaviors in later years and further regulate the industry, but it also requires wisdom from families, schools and the whole society to help the regulation achieve its expected goal, an expert in family psychology said.

Tattoo services for minors will be banned in China, according to a guideline unveiled on Monday.

The guideline, released by a high-level task force established to coordinate efforts related to the protection of minors under the State Council, China's Cabinet, aims to promote the management of tattoo work to protect minors' legal rights, according to the website of the Ministry of Civil Affairs.

The nation and all of society are responsible for helping minors understand the risks of getting tattoos, and parents and guardians should dissuade them from doing so, the guideline said.

Enterprises, organizations and individuals are banned from offering tattoo services to minors.

Signs displaying the rule should be placed in prominent areas at tattoo shops. Workers should check identification if it is difficult to determine the age of their customers.

No advertisements promoting tattoos are allowed to appear at schools or kindergartens, while publications such as books and magazines are not permitted to seduce minors into getting tattoos.

Violations of the ban can be reported to civil affairs, business, health and market inspection departments. Punishments will be carried out accordingly.

The guideline took effect on Monday.

"Minors might not know that some doors of opportunity in the future might be closed at the moment they sit or lie on the chair to get a tattoo. For example, some careers such as the civil service, policing and the military do not welcome applicants with big tattoos. Adolescents might regret their impulsive or rebellious decision for getting a tattoo when they grow up," said Guo Xiamei, associate professor from Xiamen University specializing in family psychology and adolescent development.

The decision of getting a tattoo should be big and irreversible, which requires a high level of maturity to make. Most tattoos cannot be removed, or cost pain, time and a fortune to be removed.

Despite a tacit rule to refuse offering tattoo services to minors in the industry, some business owners sought to profit from ignoring the unwritten rule, Guo said.

"The guideline can better manage the service providers by making it mandatory," she added.

However, it is difficult to "manage" people, especially minors, Guo said, warning that overprotection may cause the reverse effect.

"It is arguable that a tough guideline can diminish the behavior. Minors, especially teenagers, are rebellious. If they are told not to do a particular thing, they might be more tempted to do so," she said, adding that it requires wisdom to dissuade them so they understand the risks of getting a tattoo.

On June 1 last year, a court in Jiangsu province ordered a tattoo parlor to stop inking minors for violating their legitimate rights and interests and infringing upon social welfare.

Between June 2017 and April 2020, the owner of the tattoo parlor had tattooed more than 40 minors using ink containing toxic pigments.

It was the first public interest lawsuit involving minors after the newly amended Law on the Protection of Minors-granting better protection to children-went into effect on June 1, last year.

"Most minors get tattoos out of curiosity or imitation. Once they realize the consequences of getting a tattoo and that it cannot be completely removed, it can cause serious psychological trauma," Di Xiaohua, a law professor from Nanjing University, told China Central Television.