“Getting a tattoo is a decision which requires a certain level of maturity,” said Max Bodlund, head of SRT (Sveriges registrerade tatuerare), the tattoo artists’ industry organization, to the Sydsvenskan newspaper.
Bodlund explained that about 90 percent of those who regret getting a tattoo made the decision when they were young.
“As a teenager, you change your mind every week, test things, make mistakes,” he said.
Moreover, young people’s bodies continue to grow, which often results in the tattoos becoming distorted.
While Sweden currently has several set of regulations governing the tattoo industry, there is no law which sets an explicit age limit on getting a tattoo.
The issue was highlighted recently by a case from Hässleholm in southern Sweden.
A tattoo artist was reported to police by the mother of a 17-year-old girl after she learned the artist had given her daughter a tattoo.
But police elected not to follow up on the complaint.
“There is nothing in the law which says you are breaking the law if you tattoo someone underage,” Lars Andersson of the Hässleholm police told the paper.
While Sweden’s National Board of Health and Welfare (Socialstyrelsen) examined the issue several years ago, no age limit was ever introduced because no studies showed that tattoos posed more of a risk to young people than to adults.
Current rules from the Code on Parents and Children (Föräldrabalken) say that parents are responsible for their children until they become adults, which could be interpreted to mean that children must have their parents’ permission to get a tattoo, said Socialstyrelsen’s Iréne Andersson.
In addition, Sweden’s consumer protection laws prohibit children from entering into contracts on their own, which according to Andersson, has resulted in children getting their money back from tattoo artists, even if the tattoo itself isn’t illegal.
Politicians on the left and the right also want to see a prohibition against tattoos for minors and STA recommends that its members refuse services to anyone under 18-years-old.
But as many of Sweden’s tattoo artists aren’t members of STA, Moderate Party politician Lars-Arne Staxäng believes stronger measures are needed.
“There ought to be a rule that makes it so someone can’t get a tattoo before they’re an adult,” he told Sydsvenskan, adding that he plans to push the issue further in the Riksdag.