Published: Jan 03, 2012 12:13 AM EST
Updated: Jan 03, 2012 12:40 AM EST

LEE COUNTY, Fla. - After years of fighting for higher standards in his industry, tattoo artist Bill Hannong says there are finally rules that could make a difference.

Hannong says his profession's reputation has taken several jabs over the years, mainly from artists who practice outside law and outside legitimate tattoo studios.

"It does our industry no good whatsoever for a doctor to be treating somebody who's contracted some sort of Staph, God forbid, Hepatitis C, or something as bad as HIV or AIDS," Hannong says.

A new law that took effect Jan. 1 would require extra certification for tattooists. In addition to the already-required occupational license, tattoo artists have to take health and hygiene courses through the state.

Hannong hopes it helps put an end to underground artists, or "scratchers", who often ink clients under potentially-hazardous conditions.

"You just can't get a tattoo license and work in your garage, in the back of whatever. You have to be working in a licensed tattoo studio," he says.

And for the first time ever, Hannong says those who work without the necessary licenses can be punished.

"This is full-on legislation that lends the deserving pedigree and professionalism to our industry," he says.

Penalties for tattooing without the proper certifications can include a $1,500 fine, and possibly, jail time.

Artists have 6 months to get in compliance with the new rules.