Wales introduces under 18s ban on intimate piercing

Reporter:

Jamie Bowman

Wales has become the first country in the UK to introduce a nationwide ban on the intimate piercing of
under-18s.

The law, which came into force yesterday, makes it an offence for piercing practitioners to arrange or carry out an intimate piercing on anyone aged under 18.

There are 10 specified intimate body areas where piercing is banned – including genitalia, nipples and tongues.

The change will come under the Public Health (Wales) Act 2017, making it an offence to arrange or perform intimate piercings on children and young people.

Wales will become the first country to issue a nationwide ban, though some local authorities across the UK have introduced restrictions on intimate piercings.

Dr Frank Atherton, chief medical officer for Wales, said the law was in place to protect “health and wellbeing”

“It’s concerning that a third of young people with intimate piercings have reported complications following a procedure,” Dr Atherton said.

“The child protection issues that could also arise from this scenario highlight even further the importance of implementing such a law.

“I hope this piece of legislation will help to reduce these issues, and that practitioners understand the importance of obtaining proof of age beforehand.”

The Welsh Government said a study in England found that complications were reported with about a third of all body piercings in people aged 16-24.

It stated problems were most likely to be reported with tongue piercings, followed by on genitals and nipples.

“As young people continue to grow during their teenage years, an intimate piercing performed at a young age could result in further complications arising as their bodies develop,” a spokesman said.

“Young people may also be less likely to have the experience or knowledge of how to clean or maintain an intimate piercing, leading to an increased risk of infection.”

Dr Colette Bridgman, chief dental officer for Wales, said many dentists and patients welcome the ban.

“Tongue piercing can lead to lasting damage to teeth and gums, and can cause serious swelling in the mouth that can affect breathing,” Dr Bridgman said. “Many dentists in Wales have seen patients who have permanent harm following piercing and dental teams in Wales really welcome this new law.”

As well as the tongue and breasts, the ban, under the Public Health (Wales) Act 2017, includes eight areas around the genitals and buttocks.

Local authority enforcement officers and police officers in Wales have received training ahead of the law coming into effect.

Intimate piercing practitioners in Wales are urged to have a “rigid system” in place to help them confirm proof of age and to obtain consent for each procedure, the Welsh government said.

Also welcoming the ban was body piercer Jade Williams, who works at Raw Ink Studio in Wrexham.

The studio, owned by former Wrexham AFC player Mark Creighton, offers a variety of piercings.

Jade said intimate piercings continue to be popular.

“I’m all for the new rule changes as it certainly makes my job easier,” says Jade.

“I used to think it was inappropriate when younger people came in asking for these types of piercings and I’d often think how difficult it would make things at school for example.

“I recently put up a poster telling people about the new rules and of course we had a lot of people come in before they came into practice.

“If a 17-year-old comes in with their parent I couldn’t say no even if I did think it was inappropriate, so this is very convenient for me as it would often make me feel very uncomfortable to work on someone’s nipple or tongue who I didn’t think was old enough.”

The Public Health (Wales) Act received Royal Assent in July last year.

It covers a focus on obesity and protection from the harms of smoking, especially for children and young people, and requires retailers to be on a national register.

The law also covers protection from the risks of infection from procedures including body piercing, electrolysis, acupuncture and tattooing through a new licensing system.

The Welsh government flagged up a study that found complications were reported in more than a quarter of body piercings for individuals aged 16-24.

It revealed a higher incidence of complications in connection with certain types of piercings, including intimate ones.

Problems were most likely to be reported in tongue piercings (50 per cent), followed by genitals (45
per cent) and nipples (38 per cent).

Although some local authorities in London and Scotland have imposed restrictions on intimate piercings, the Welsh government is the first to impose a nationwide ban.

Despite criticism from the UK government over its record on health, which is devolved, the Welsh Labour government has been praised for a number of its innovative health measures such as bringing in a “deemed consent” organ transplant system.

Email:

jamie.bowman@nwn.co.uk

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