TATTOOISTS and cosmetic piercers are to receive letters from Bolton Council warning them they must follow strict professional guidelines.

The move comes after reports that young people in Bolton and neighbouring boroughs are having tattoos before the legal age of 18.

The council is also urging anyone considering a tattoo or piercing to check that the business - which should have been inspected by health and safety officers - is registered with the council.

In 2006 the council adopted new by-laws which set minimum standards for hygiene, working practices and infection control. A copy of the by-laws and the registration certificate must also be displayed on the premises.

Cllr Ismail Ibrahim, Bolton's executive member for culture and community services, which includes responsibility for environmental health, said: "Recent years have seen increasing trends in the type and variety of tattoos young people have.

"They must be done safely and hygienically to avoid the risks of blood borne and other infections. Effective infection control is the key to ensuring safe operations and satisfied customers.

"Our aim is to reduce the risk of such infections among both customers and those employed in tattooing and similar services."

Further details are available from the council's health and safety unit on 01204 336534.