I think it is now seen as a way of affirming one's identity.
Before, tattoos were mostly about membership of a group: a biker gang, the Yakuza, the navy, etc... Now, it's more personal with people coming up with their own designs. Your own body is obviously a very personal thing, and modifying it in some way is a clear sign (to yourself and to others) that the words/modif you have tattooed on are deeply personal and of great importance to you. I mostly understand and respect this, although personally, I cannot imagine being so confident in my current mindset to have something done to me permanently. But it is this very permanence that gives the meaning to the tattoo.
Then there is a growing number of cheap tattoo parlours in somewhat trashy touristy areas which cater to drunk revellers. Possibly there are more of these, or they are cheaper than before. Or simply the kind of people who go to them have more holidays than before. I've heard of youth hostels in Rio de Janeiro that has a tattoo 'artist' visiting at 2am on a Friday night and does whatever tattoo you want there and then for $5. That, I have absolutely no respect for, but possibly condolences for the drunk teenagers making mistakes.