Part 4 of the Pigment Safety Article. We look at regulations and tactics being taken by distributors to sway public opinion.

Part 1 of the article can be found here.

Part 2 of the article can be found here.

Part 3 of the article can be found here.

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Reactions to Regulations of Tattoo Pigments

While writing this up, I drafted a tactical road map in the back of my mind. This road map was what to expect of the industry as time progressed when facing regulations. I go into scattered detail throughout the article about how I feel the companies in question will react to questions or possible regulations. They have a head start though – The tactics of companies in the past who faced the threat of regulations have laid a track in which they know how to progress and confront regulation. These companies will do everything to preserve profits and will focus their efforts around the stalling the potential intervention in product development by scientists. 

Think about the cigarette companies and their efforts throughout modern history to get people addicted, keep them addicted and how they focused on maximizing their profits while people died from the use of them. Like I wrote above, there is a process to this active engagement of profits over health. This process was developed by intelligent people well before legislation and regulation came down on companies who threatened the lives and health outcomes of the public. And, just like the cigarette companies during the 1950’s and 1960’s, tattoo pigment distributors are working against regulation and we know they are following this process to a “T”. 

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Tactics to Keep Us “Addicted”.

We are subject to the efforts of mass marketing. There is no way to refute that the companies who sell us products know what they are doing. Through modern times, from radio to the modern social media landscape, advertising and marketing companies have spent vast fortunes in studying the effects of their efforts so as to influence our decisions. This influence peddling has been well described in many newspaper articles, peer-reviewed scientific journals and by those outside the media who have suffered health consequences from these actions.

What’s funny about the whole process of influencing our decisions is that the companies who are facing future regulations know about the potential intervention by the government long before they are facing a change to production. These companies are prepared for potential losses and have a timeline that focuses their fight against regulation. This process is really easy to come up with and, if you think about it, the fight against regulation starts with understanding the political process and how regulations come down the line.

It always starts with a complaint.

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Deny, Deny, Deny…Never Back Down.

Sounds like a Roger Stone interview, right?

All regulations start with an initial complaint. Someone gets sick, dies or suffers in some way that is directly linked with whatever product may be responsible. A note gets made in some logbook, on some persons desk where regulations get done. If it is an isolated event, the note stays alongside the other complaints that may not have culminated in something of consequence to the general public. However, if the complaint is followed by others making the same claim, regulators are forced to focus efforts on understanding what is causing all the ruckus. 

Because the push for regulations have already hit other industries, tattoo suppliers, distributors and manufacturers of pigment are in a unique position to exploit knowledge gained by others who have gone through the process before. The previous actions taken by other companies or industries give companies facing new regulation a way to prepare for a fight against regulation. 

The Start of Regulation

Let’s start the process with step 1 in regulation – Finding the cause.

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Once enough complaints get made to regulators, and a pattern is emerging as to what may be causing the issue, an effort is made to contact the companies who may be responsible for the outbreak.

Historically, companies facing this step in the process deny everything. With the denial well established, a false effort will be made by the company to “find out as much as they can”. Remember, the company is well aware of what is going on and has already developed a plan for what is going to occur if people start complaining (or dying). 

During this stage of inquiry, denial is the only action a company can take. Knowing that governments require evidence and data to formulate regulations, and that the general public will not be educated as to what the health consequences are with their products, the companies facing the regulation easily stay in denial. They do this because they know regulators must build a case against the companies at fault and the development of evidence can, at times, take decades. During this period of pre-regulation, companies work a 3 pronged approach to delay the inevitable:

  1. Litigation to stall the collection of evidence.
  2. Engage in political influence.
  3. Influencing Public Opinion

Collect Evidence and Creating Contradiction

Onto step two in regulations – Evidence collection.

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Regulators have the upper hand for the initiation of evidence collection. The truth is already out there and health consequences have been observed and reported to authorities. Companies confronted with this aspect of regulation are already in denial mode but denial can only go so far when fighting governmental influence that will be based on hard evidence. The companies in question need to develop stories, alternative “facts” and questions about the intentions of regulators so that they can influence the general public’s opinion and slow the progress of investigators.

Litigation and Stalling 

To start, companies apply proprietary brand labels to products, hiding the ingredient lists from regulators under the guise that losing the special ingredients is comparable to loss of intellectual property. This stalling tactic can take years to undo and allows for the development of increased product awareness that is manufactured by the companies that are under fire.

Companies will also start pulling in competitors so that the cost of litigation and evidence collections are spread about. Having a single company on the hook for millions or billions of dollars may signal the end of a dynasty so, when working together, companies can ensure survival when facing possible fines in the future.

Those facing regulation will also fund scientific efforts to prove that products are safe. By purchasing the science that is being reported to the public, disinformation runs rampant and efforts by regulators are slowed as they are forced to defend their publications before introducing the results to legislators. Companies using this practice are almost guaranteed a delay in any proceedings as long as they can continually produce new work that forces a rebuttal by government regulators. 

The Coalition for Tattoo Safety (CTS) is a perfect example of how the pigment industry has combined its efforts behind a single organization. You can also see them attending briefings and legislative sessions in Washington DC starting in 2018. The head of the CTS has also created a cell-on-chip testing facility in the recent past to test the safety of his and the coalitions’ products – all this in an effort to produce results that can be presented to governmental regulators.

Public Opinion

While the branded products can now be hidden from scrutiny by the general public (by denying the examination of what is listed as proprietary), efforts are made to create grassroot followings based on the safety and efficacy of a product. These campaigns are focused on gathering the forces of the least educated individual. By giving these people a famous face and free products the companies are able to sway opinion in specific demographics which instills a level of doubt that can be hard to shake for regulators in the future.

Companies may also develop philanthropic efforts and give to causes that attach a more “human” face to the company. All this while causing damage to public health. When creating the focus of philanthropy, companies must be sure to focus on health aspects or social causes that are inline with what they are being confronted with. If a pigment company is being brought under regulations because of possible carcinogens being released in their products they will focus on fighting cancer – to show you they care.

Pigment manufacturers have focused on increasing sponsorship over the past 5 years. These sponsored artists are not scientists but attest to the efficacy and safety of a product while receiving kickbacks for adulterated work that is spread across social media channels globally. These efforts are alongside media campaigns that have increased brand awareness by offering free product demos, funding media like podcasts and magazines as well as forming a coalition for the general public and industry insiders (the CTS).

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Political Influence

When the public believes something, they have power. By creating a situation where the masses believe something, companies have effectively cut the government off at its knees. The voting public is all that matters to those who have been elected to office. Their reelections, campaign funding and possible media coverage are of utmost importance if they choose to make a career in public service. Because the public holds so much power over politics their beliefs become the politician’s own when confronting regulations. 

Public opinion can sway the beliefs of officials, which in turn decreases their ability to see the truth when confronted with scientific evidence. This can be attached to the guarantees from companies that unlimited cashflow for reelection is at their disposal if they are willing and able to slow the progress on potential regulation. I know that this may seem like some crazy alternative idea but if you look back into political landscapes throughout history you can find a multitude of examples where“back scratching” occurs at all levels of government.

The whole focus of grassroot campaigns is to create doubt. By doing this, companies are able to force a sense of disbelief when the public is confronted with real evidence that may be damaging to the companies facing regulation. If people do not know what to believe, they will follow with their heart and experience before accepting fancy science-speak. When this happens, product lifespan in its current formulation is increased and no efforts by the company to change in response to the coming health crisis are required. The products still hold value even if they are unsafe.

Time for Regulation

Once enough data has been collected, and the evidence that is brought forth by companies, which is largely anecdotal by nature, is refuted or falsified, regulators can move forward with proceedings to challenge companies and attempt to prove malicious intent behind their efforts to evade regulation.

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Historically, companies would argue that they were being victimised.  Regulators were treating theses companies different than their competitors, AKA- singling them out.These companies argued that regulators attacked their ability to operate by imposing regulations which forced them to lose market viability; the the loss of profits during restructuring to meet these legal hurdles was impossible to overcome; non-scientists argued on behalf of these companies that regulations stood between them and the products that they demanded.  Companies facing regulation argued that any actions taken by regulators moving forward were effectively decreasing the ability to innovate and to meet market demand.

While I agree that this may be a possible side effect of regulation, this argument pushes business interests and earnings ahead of public safety. If you knowingly produce a product that has been shown to create ill health in individuals, you have a responsibility to modify your products or remove them from circulation. In my opinion, the guarantee that new products are safe supersedes the want for innovation.

Once Regulation is Passed

Once an agreement is struck between regulators and the companies that were under scrutiny over the safety of their products, a timeline is established for the company to remove unwanted or unhealthy aspects of products being released to consumers. Depending on the severity of the risk established by scientists this timeline can be quite abrupt – immediately.

There is also the possibility of damages being assigned in the way of a fine to the companies who are held responsible for the consequences

During this phase of regulation, companies have the chance to fight on and appeal any aspect of regulation that has been passed. By filing an appeal to the regulators companies can force a halt on any adaptations and increase the amount of time needed to adapt and change their products. Each company can also decrease the amount regulations by appealing to each individual aspect of the rulings that were handed down. This process can also stall the regulators for decades in the enforcement of new laws.

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Moving Into Modern Regulatory Actions With Tattoo Pigments

I keep asking myself: Why are they fighting to keep regulations from becoming a reality and why should they care if they are forced to change?

I believe it comes down to money. This makes more sense when looking at businesses fighting regulation in the past – it always has been about money.

What companies are up against when facing regulation

New regulations create new processes that must be taken by companies when they release products for the general public.

If you change your production or are forced to utilize new sources or raw materials, your costs will initially go up. There will be a period of time where you cannot produce any product and your profits will evaporate. Depending on the market you operate within, these costs of operation may stay increased for the future which puts stress on your product line to stay competitive, if you choose not to raise prices. Due to this, manufacturers argue that increased costs create a market in which they are unable to successfully operate in. Business thrives on stability.

Regardless of what a company may say is going to happen to their production costs, the price adjustments and lifetime value fall onto the consumer. If companies are forced to pay more to adapt new policies or produce things in an ethical way, they do not pick up the bill, regardless of what they say. We have been shown throughout time that these new costs always pass along to the consumer and have no bearing in successful sales. Businesses that do not make profits are prone to failure.

Up next we will be discussing the science behind tattoo pigment and the health consequences associated with the different products used in their mixtures. The scientists focusing on these health consequences have only just started to release their findings and you may be amazed at what they have already found.


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