French tattoo artists fight coloured ink ban

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Dan MacGuill - [email protected]
French tattoo artists fight coloured ink ban
French tattoo artists are set to address parliament on Wednesday, in opposition to an "alarmist" plan to outlaw coloured inks. Photo: GeishaBoy500/Flickr

French tattoo artists are set to address parliament on Wednesday, in opposition to a plan to outlaw coloured inks – the latest in a series of controversial health-driven crackdowns by the French government.


Senior figures from France’s National Union of Tattoo Artists (SNAT) are set to speak to the National Assembly on Wednesday, to voice their fierce opposition to a proposed ban on coloured inks.

“[The plan is] alarmist, and would stigmatize the profession without any real scientific foundation,” tattoo artist “Grenouille”, secretary of the union, told Le Figaro on Wednesday.

The proposal would outlaw nine out of ten coloured inks available on the market in France at present, allowing only black, white, grey and certain shades of blue and green.

Wednesday’s parliamentary hearing comes after a report earlier this year by a leading French health watchdog which called for the ban to come into place from January 1st 2014.

The ANSM, France’s National Agency for the Safety of Health Products, agreed with the country’s union of dermatologists and venereologists that the use of coloured tattoo inks increased the risk of infections, allergies and even cancer.

This claim was rejected, however, by “Tin-Tin”, a celebrated French tattoo artist and president of SNAT, who wrote an open letter to France’s then Director-General of Health, Jean-Yves Grall, in September.

The union leader – well-known in France for having tattooed fashion designer Jean-Paul Gauthier – has also called for an EU-wide consensus on which pigments and inks should be legal, and claimed that the planned law would violate a 1979 ruling by the European Court of Justice.

Outlawing the inks, according to SNAT, would have the opposite effect desired, by driving tattoo-lovers to underground parlours run by unlicensed artists unencumbered by health and hygiene standards.

As well as curbing the options for self-expression available to those looking to go under the needle, the ban would do serious damage to the tattoo industry, according to Tin-Tin, who is scheduled to join his colleague Grenouille in addressing French deputies on Wednesday.

“We’re not only talking about the future of our art and our profession, but also, and especially, a question of public health regarding people with tattoos, whose numbers continue to increase in France,” he wrote.

According to a 2010 survey by polling firm Ifop, 10 percent of French adults have at least one tattoo, a figure that rises to 20 percent among 25 to 34-year-olds.

Earlier this month, young French tattoo artist Jim Appay published a petition against the proposed ban, which had garnered 110,000 signatures in just 11 days, by time of writing.

The proposal to ban coloured inks is only the latest in a series of moves to outlaw or heavily tax certain commonly-available substances and everyday products in France, on the basis of health concerns.

In October, the government announced plans to outlaw certain scented candles and incense sticks, only days after the French parliament voted to impose a tax on energy drinks such as Red Bull, citing concerns over their high levels of caffeine, sugar and taurine.

And in September, The Local reported how a leaked government report called for new taxes on electronic cigarettes, artificial sweeteners like aspartame, and flavoured wines, in order to discourage their use and consumption.


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