Proposed Health (Protection) Amendment Bill

Regulatory impact statement

Publication Date: 
31 July 2014

Updated with the short-form supplementary department disclosure statement on 4 November 2015

These regulatory impact statements (RISs) have been prepared by the Ministry of Health.

The decision was taken to progress the matters discussed in these two RISs in the one Bill.

Short-form supplementary departmental disclosure statement

Health (Protection) Amendment Bill

The Health (Protection) Amendment Bill seeks to amend the Health Act 1956 in order to protect the public from infectious diseases and to lessen the harm of artificial UV tanning. The Bill would:

  • increase the range of infectious diseases that are notifiable
  • improve the management of individuals with infectious diseases whose behaviour puts other people at risk of contracting a disease by providing new management options including directions issued by a medical officer of health, court orders, urgent health risk orders, and interventions
  • strengthen legislative provisions for contact tracing of people who may have an infectious disease, or may have been exposed to one
  • introduce a ban on the provision of commercial artificial UV tanning services to people under 18 years of age.

The supplementary departmental disclosure statement refers to a Supplementary Order Paper to the Bill, proposed by the Minister of Health. The Supplementary Order Paper seeks to amend the Bill's notification requirements, chiefly by amending clause 5.

Improving the management of infectious diseases

The RIS provides an analysis of options to address concerns about the surveillance and management of infectious diseases, and the risk posed to the public. These concerns have arisen because current legislation does not, in some situations, fully support effective front line public health practice. Specifically:

  • reliable and useful information for surveillance of the rates and prevalence of some significant sexually transmissible infections (STIs) is not available due to lack of requirements for notification of these diseases
  • legal provisions are inadequate for case management of a small number of individuals with infectious diseases whose behaviour may pose a significant risk to other people
  • the legal basis has been strengthened for tracing people who may be sources of infection, or at risk of infection.

Concerns about the current legislation have been articulated by staff in health agencies over a sustained period of time.

The preferred option to address these concerns requires amendments to current law, the Health Act 1956. The proposed amendments would:

  • improve the requirements for notifying infectious diseases
  • make some STIs notifiable on a non-identifying basis (that is, HIV infection, gonorrhoeal infection, and syphilis)
  • introduce a graduated series of provisions, such as directions and court orders, to manage infected individuals whose behaviour poses a risk to others
  • provide stronger legislative provisions for the practice and scope of contact tracing.

These measures are designed to improve protections for the public from the risk of infection from a number of serious diseases.

For historical reasons, New Zealand has a stand-alone Tuberculosis Act, and therefore, there are two statutes for infectious disease, both with slightly different provisions for detention of infected people whose behaviour may pose a risk to others. For public health purposes in general terms, it is appropriate to manage tuberculosis in the same way as for other serious infectious diseases. There is the opportunity to streamline legislation for all infectious diseases by including tuberculosis in the Health Act as an infectious disease that is notifiable to a medical officer of health. This change allows the historically separate Tuberculosis Act 1948 to be repealed and the Tuberculosis Regulations 1951 to be revoked.

Reducing harm from artificial UV tanning services

This RIS was developed to inform policy decisions on whether to introduce new controls on sunbeds and other ultra-violet emitting devices (‘artificial UV tanning devices’) used for artificially tanning skin.

There is strong evidence that people who use artificial UV tanning devices increase their risk of melanoma and other more common skin cancers. The greater the exposure, the greater is the risk of skin cancer. Studies have suggested that using a sunbed before the age of 35 almost doubles the risk of melanoma compared with those who have never used sunbeds. There is some further evidence that children and adolescents are more sensitive to UV (from any source).

While voluntary standards and guidance on operating UV devices exist, spot checks by Consumer New Zealand and health authorities have consistently found variable compliance with those voluntary steps designed to minimise harm.

There is little data about the size of the problem (in terms of number of people, including young people and those with high risk skin types, accessing sunbeds). However, despite this, officials consider that the evidence of health harm gives sufficient justification for intervention, particularly in respect of controls to protect young people from exposure to artificial UV tanning devices.

The RIS identifies that a ban on providing commercial artificial UV tanning services to those aged under 18 years will potentially impose costs on businesses that import, manufacture or sell artificial UV tanning devices, and those businesses that provide artificial UV tanning services to members of the public for cosmetic purposes. These costs are not considered to be high.

Consultation on this matter has been targeted to a small number of solarium operators, rather than widespread, and there may be impacts that have not been identified or quantified. Consultation was not undertaken with young people, parents, health professional organisations or more widely with industry about the proposal to ban the supply of artificial UV tanning devices to those aged under 18 years. Their views are therefore not reflected in this RIS but are expected to be canvassed during the select committee process.

In October 2013, the Government decided to amend the Health Act 1956 to ban the commercial provision of artificial UV tanning services to people under 18 years of age, and to improve provisions for the management of infectious diseases.

The Health Protection Amendment Bill meets the policy objectives set out in the two RISs on this page. The Bill was introduced into the House in July 2014.

Regulatory impact statements

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