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Written Statement - Cosmetic Piercing of Young People

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A consultation to get views on how to make cosmetic piercing safer for young people.
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Lesley Griffiths, Minister for Health and Social Services 

Members will be aware I launched a consultation on the cosmetic piercing of young people in October last year, which included a number of proposals and sought views on how to make cosmetic piercing safer for young people. The consultation generated considerable interest and the majority of respondents were clearly in favour of our proposals. A summary of the consultation responses is available on the Welsh Government website.

I confirm it is my intention to move forward with proposals to make legislation which will cover issues such as:

  • A minimum age of consent for cosmetic piercing. This will require a young person, below 16 years of age, to be accompanied by a parent or guardian when they want to have a cosmetic piercing procedure. This will include more common piercings, such as piercings of the ear lobes.
  • A definitive age restriction for intimate cosmetic piercing (a piercing of the nipples or genitalia). This will prohibit cosmetic piercing operators carrying out intimate cosmetic piercings on young people below 18 years of age.
  • A requirement for the cosmetic piercing operator to undertake a pre-treatment consultation for all cosmetic piercing procedures, irrespective of the age of the person who wants to have the cosmetic piercing. This pre-consultation will cover as a minimum:
    • Whether the person being pierced has any health problems that may put them at greater risk if they have the piercing.
    • How the piercing will be done, including any possible problems.
    • How to look after the piercing to prevent infection.

The purpose of this legislation is to reduce the number of infections and post-procedure complications associated with cosmetic piercings in Wales. The involvement of a parent or guardian should help to reduce the impact of pressure from friends, help an individual to understand the implications of having a cosmetic piercing and help  to choose a reputable piercer. 

Introducing a definitive age restriction for intimate cosmetic piercings should help to reduce the incidence of post-procedure complications and reduce the number of young people placing themselves in a vulnerable situation. A standardised pre-consultation should ensure individuals are aware of the implications of the procedure before it is conducted and are provided with good aftercare advice. 

Some common issues raised by consultation respondents, such as the prevention of cosmetic piercing of young children too young to give consent, are still under consideration. Also, the appropriate legislative vehicle for this proposed new legislation and timescales for introduction have yet to be determined. It is my intention for further details to be published for full consultation, once finalised.