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Year-old tattoo law allows artists to work in open



Nov. 6, 2006, was just another day for the tattoo artists at Oklahoma City's Mystical Illusions. Five days after Senate Bill 806 made Oklahoma the final state in the country to legalize tattooing within its borders, Jody Benner and his team of tattooists prepared to open their doors as the first licensed tattoo studio in Oklahoma City.

However, tattooing wasn't necessarily a new feature at Mystical Illusions. Benner and his crew, like many other local tattoo artists, had been inking Oklahomans under the guise of a body piercing studio for eight years.

"The only difference then and now is now we have to have a license and pay taxes on (our tattoo business)," Benner said. "We're glad (tattooing) was legalized. The state can regulate studios and artists, and I don't think the health department is a burden because now we can advertise and put out signs."

When he signed the bill into law one year ago, Gov. Brad Henry noted that tattooing had to be regulated in order to enforce health standards for tattoo artists operating in the state. Without regulation, the use of non-sterilized needles and tubes can lead to the spread of diseases such as:
" hepatitis B,
" hepatitis C and
" HIV.

While health department regulation may have added a level of stress over the past year, it's also provided several benefits.

"(The law) finally made tattooing look like a legitimate occupation here in Oklahoma," said D.J. Richardson, owner of Undisputed Tattoos. "And I feel a little less like an outlaw (because) it's not a sneaky business anymore." "Chris Willard



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