Body piercing studios are regularly approached by unaccompanied teenagers despite new guidelines saying that minors should have parental consent before going under the needle.

According to the guidelines, issued by the health authorities, body piercing of those still under-18 can only take place with the written consent of their parents or a guardian. The guidelines also prohibit outright nipple or genital piercings in minors.

"I receive requests for piercings by minors under 18 practically every day but I tell them to go home and come back with their parents," the owner of a body art studio in St Julians said.

Bobby Wood, owner of a studio in BuÄĦibba, agreed: "They come all the time. Most are still in school, mainly between the ages of 14 and 17 but I tell them I need their parents' consent... Sometimes they actually get a friend to phone and pretend it's their parents... but I don't fall for these tricks," he said.

The Children Commissioner's annual report, launched last week, recommended the legal regulation of body piercing.

Commissioner Carmen Zammit explained she was often approached by concerned parents whose children were pierced without their consent. The parents were primarily worried about the health repercussions of the piercings.

In her report, Ms Zammit pointed out that the Control of Tattooing Act banned the tattooing of minors under 18 and made such practice illegal. She suggested a similar law be enacted to regulate piercing in order to ensure it would be illegal to pierce a minor without adult consent.

Ms Zammit said that although a law regulating body piercing existed "this makes no specific reference to body piercing of minors".

The law lays down that a licence by the health authorities is required to perform body piercing. Operators must be knowledgeable about possible medical repercussions of piercing and discuss their client's medical history before going ahead with the procedure.

A separate licence, renewable annually, is required to operate the premises where the piercing takes place.

Health Director General Ray Busuttil explained that, last November, the authority issued guidelines for operators. "The standards being requested as reflected in the guidelines are high because we want to ensure the maximum safety in terms of possible transmission of blood-borne infections," Dr Busuttil said.

He explained that, while the guidelines were not law, they laid down the grounds on which the body-piercing licences were granted by the health authorities. This meant that an operator who performed piercings on minors, without parental consent, would not be granted a licence.

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