'You're Not Thinking Straight': Calls To Ban 'Drunken Tattoos'
Almost two years ago, Emma Matthews' night out in Sydney's inner-west ended up at a tattoo parlour.
One minute the then 22-year-old was drinking at a gig in Newtown; the next, she had her two friends' initials tattooed in a love heart on her backside.
"I had forgotten about it. The next morning, I woke up and freaked out!" she told 10 daily.
"But I don't regret it. It's a memory now."
Matthews has about 12 other tattoos -- each of them professionally done, while sober. On this occasion, she and her friends were visibly drunk when they passed a tattoo parlour.
"We walked in and, from memory, they were pretty happy to tattoo us. It was the end of their night," she said.
While so-called 'drunken tattoos' can become a distant memory, they can also end up being a costly reminder of a night out -- and it's one behaviour a Sydney plastic surgeon wants to see stamped out.
Dr Laith Barnouti specialises in cosmetic surgery and is seeing an increasing number of patients coming to him to have their tattoos removed.
"I keep asking them why they had it done in the first place, and they often say they weren't in the right frame of mind, that they weren't fully sober," Barnouti told 10 daily.
"It's often a Saturday night when they stopped by a parlour and they decided to do something they later regretted."
Barnouti's practice will receive about eight inquiries for surgical tattoo removal each week.
"These are people who have exhausted their chances with laser and are now prepared to leave a permanent surgical scar on their body to remove a tattoo," he said.
"And this is just my practice."
His main concern is with consent. Under current law in most states, either verbal or in-person permission is only required to tattoo those aged under 18.
It remains up to tattoo parlours to manage those who appear intoxicated.
Barnouti believes this lack of consent, particularly for those who may be under the influence of alcohol, is unethical.
"You can't walk into surgery and have any other forms of surgical work done without consent, being sober and of clear mind," he said.
"The same needs to happen for tattoos.
No one should have tattoos if they are not in the right frame of mind and have fully consented. It’s no different for someone who is having a face lift or Botox.
10 daily contacted three parlours in Sydney's inner-city and inner-west, two of which said they have their own policies in place.
At The Illustrated Man in Surry Hills, customers who appear even slightly intoxicated are turned away.
"They won't get it done here," tattooist Gary told 10 daily.
"They'll come in and try and convince you that they've only had a couple, but you can tell. We tell them to come back tomorrow."
But this wasn't the case for Matthews and her friends.
"We would have been visibly drunk. I'm surprised that they let us," she said, not mentioning the parlour's name.
Matthews believes parlours should hold some accountability for serving intoxicated customers but questioned how.
"When you're not intoxicated, you're not thinking straight. It should be up to the parlour to take some kind of action," she said.
"But how do you regulate that? It's a tough one."
Barnouti called on more "rigorous" laws across the country that would allow people to only have a tattoo if there are sober, able to provide full written consent and are subjected to a "cooling off period" for 48 hours.
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