Intimate piercing and tattoos could be banned for people under 18 years old, according to a new bill tabled by a Fianna Fáil TD.
Waterford Deputy Mary Butler has put forward the Regulation of Intimate Piercing and Tattoo Bill 2018, which is "the first ever regulation of the body art sector, banning tattoos and intimate piercings for under 18 year olds and strengthens health and safety provisions for the industry."
She said the bill aims to fill "a clear legal void in Ireland through three main measures - ban tattoos for under 18 year olds, ban intimate body piercings for under 18 year olds and strengthen health and safety regulation in the sector."
Deputy Butler acknowledged that tattoos and piercings have exploded in popularity in the last decade.
There has been a major increase in the number of tattoo and piercing parlours across the country but there is no specific legislation for the regulation of the sector.
She said that there is no published data on the prevalence of tattoos among the Irish population.
A 2016 review in the Lancet medical review journal states that up to 36% of people under 40 have at least one tattoo with many first inked between the ages of 16 and 20 years.
Ms Butler said her own husband is a tattoo enthusiast and she knows that getting a tattoo is a lifelong decision.
She added: "Setting an age limit of 18 effectively legislates for what is best in sector practice and targets rogue operators."
She cited the example of Wales where intimate body piercing for children has been banned "amid fears it could lead to health issues and make young people vulnerable to abuse."
Complications have been reported in more than one quarter for body piercings for people aged 16 to 24 years old, according to some studies.
Under the proposed legislation, practitioners would not be allowed to carry out intimate piercings, including to the tongue and breasts, on anyone under 18.
Ears, noses, navels and eyebrows are not covered by the legislation.
Ms Butler warned that risks associated with tattooing and body piercing can range from acute infections to allergic reactions and can occur when the piercing or tattooing equipment becomes contaminated.
The bill has passed its first hurdle in the Dáil and will be debated in detail at a later stage.