In reading this, keep in mind that permits are for the actual shop location, while licensing is for the individual artist.
To briefly summarize the new statutes, no one can tattoo here in Hawaii without a state license, as was previously the case. There are now two options for getting licensed, however. In addition to taking the state exam, alternative DOH approved courses developed for the tattoo industry and taken within the last two years are acceptable. At present, the DOH is working out the details on what constitutes an approved course--hopefully this will be done in the near future. There is no longer a TB or syphilis test requirement specified in the Statutes, but it remains in the old Dept. Rules & Regs. The new statues do not specify a fee increase for permanent licenses, although we will see gradual increases, which are well justified, since our renewal fees are only $7.50 for 2 years. You can’t lick a stamp for that, can you? Initial application fees remain at $75.
Previously there was a clause in the statute that anyone with a communicable disease could not tattoo. This clause has been removed from the new statues, but remains in the Departmental Rules and Regulations for now (until the department has the budget approval to update them). Anyway, remember free hepatitis B vaccines are available at the Diamondhead STD clinic near KCC in Kaimuki. They are also avail. at other clinics at a minimal cost, but it's FREE at Diamondhead! Hep. B and C are by far the greatest risk we face in dealing with blood & bodily fluids, so hep B vaccines are a good idea for anyone in a tattoo shop. If there are several of you needing the vaccine, it may be possible for Heather to come do it at your shop! Contact Heather Lusk, firstname.lastname@example.org to make arrangements.
Oahu - Diamond Head Health Center 733-9281: walk-in M-F 11 am –4 pm
Maui – Wailuku Health Center 984-2129
Kauai – Kapaa Neighborhood Center 821-2741
E. Hawaii – Waiakea Health Center 974-4247
W. Hawaii Kealakekua Health Center 322-1920
Free HIV testing with results in 20 minutes (no waiting!) are avail at the location of your choice from the Life Foundation. They will come to you for the HIV tests, or you can visit the Life Foundation office for hep C testing in addition to the HIV test. Call 521-2437 and ask for anyone in the prevention department.
Inspection standards for shops remain unchanged, as specified in the Departmental Rules and Regs, which will see minor revisions assuming the state budget will permit such revisions. Since this is all new, and in light of the current debates on furloughs and cut-backs, details will be determined as soon as the cut-backs and furlough/budget issues are resolved.
As always, tattooing cannot occur outside of a permitted location, but there are some new developments. Initial permit applications must be accompanied by a fee of $125. Shop permits still must be renewed annually at the renewal rate of $75, due by December 31st. This fee is still substantially below many other states. Fees have been increased, and rightfully so, as there had not been an increase in nearly two decades.
Temporary permits will be available for conventions and educational exhibitions/demonstrations. Temporary permits are for a maximum of 7 consecutive days and fall into one of two categories: educational or commercial. Temporary permit applications must be made in writing to the department at least sixty days prior to the scheduled event and must include specific measures to meet specified health and safety standards, and may be subject to a site inspection. Temporary permit applicants shall pay a $50 nonrefundable application fee in addition to:
(1) A $500 nonrefundable permit fee for an event featuring not more than forty participating tattoo artists; or
(2) A $50 nonrefundable permit fee for an event featuring less than three participating tattoo artists demonstrating for educational purposes only, without compensation, consideration, or donation by the public
Our reasoning behind these two categories with very different requirements is to allow for, say, a Samoan Tafuga to do a demonstration at one of the museums or perhaps a Japanese tattoo master in conjunction with an exhibition. This is a very different thing than a tattoo convention where the general public is getting work from numerous tattooists. From our previous phone surveys we are fully aware that a number of tattooists in Hawaii feel that conventions can pose a health risk (ourselves included). This is why we have stipulated no more than 40 participating artists and that health standards must be met. If conventions are to occur here (which is bound to happen) we want to insure that it is done in a safe manner with controls in place.
Temporary licenses are also available to visiting tattooists for a maximum of 14 days in any given calendar year. Applications must be made in writing to the Department of Health and Sanitation 60 days prior to one’s intended working dates. Similar testing or alternative course requirements apply, provided that the course/test was taken & passed within two years of the date of application. Application fees for temporary licenses are $100.
The references & restrictions on facial tattooing in the old statutes are gone. Now all tattooing is treated equally, regardless of bodily area or method. This includes tattooing with hand tools—it is now allowed, but subject to the same regulations as all other methods.
A brief note on the current testing situation: Department of Health and Sanitation at one point saw no choice but to change the upcoming test date because of the imposed furloughs. If you are wondering why it had to be THAT Friday, there were only three working Fridays in July (the 3rd was a holiday for them), so they had little choice. As you probably have heard, the legality of the furloughs has been questioned and alternatives are currently being debated. So who knows what will happen? Anyway, they were fully aware that some people are inconvenienced but their hands were tied.
We highly encourage you to read the new statutes. Here we have only summarized the key points. We have not touched on penalties, fines and violations, which have seen slight revision.
Over the past year we have established a very good working rapport with the staff of the Department of Health and Sanitation. They have been extremely cooperative and we have had extensive dialogs throughout this entire process. We feel that this is one of the most important things to come out of our efforts. We also believe that this is the first time nationwide, perhaps worldwide, where the tattoo industry has worked in cooperation with the DOH and the legislature in establishing tattoo regulations. A true milestone! We hope that tattooists in other states realize they can work WITH the DOH and legislatures to write regulations that suit each other’s needs.
If you have ANY questions, I will be on the mainland and largely unavailable, but you can contact Peggy Sucher at