Navajo nation to get first junk food tax in U.S. (Reuters / Thinkstock)
Navajo nation to get first junk food tax in U.S.
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How should governments govern sales of soda? Should they ban the large sugary drinks? Should they make them more expensive?

Or should they just leave soda alone? And let consumers decide. We can either buy them or not.

This has become a debate. That's a discussion about competing viewpoints. Already, it has been playing out in New York City and Berkeley, California. And places in between.

In Smithsonian.com, Marissa Fessenden reports on one community's interest in this issue. A big decision was made. The community will target eating habits.

The move was made by the Navajo National Council. Navajos are Native Americans. The council approved a 2-percent increase in sales tax. It is only on some foods. Those foods include pastries, fried foods, desserts, chips and sodas. Those details came from Leilani Clark for Mother Jones magazine. She writes:

Authored by the Din Community Advocacy Alliance (DCAA). a grassroots organization of community volunteers, the legislation was modeled on existing taxes on tobacco and alcohol. And on other fat and sugar tax initiatives outside the United States. The act follows on the heels of a spring 2014 amendment that removed a 5 percent tribal sales tax on fresh fruits and vegetables.

The Navajo law is called the Healthy Din Nation Act, Fessenden reports. The law hasn't attracted a lot of attention. But in New York, for instance, sales of large sodas were banned. That got a lot of response from around the country.

The Navajo law will bring the total tax on low-nutrition foods to 7 percent. The increase in revenue will go towards a fund. The money will be used to build activity areas. Those include "wellness centers, parks, basketball courts, trails, swimming pools, picnic grounds and health education classes." That comes from a report by Alysa Landry for Indian Country. She adds:

An estimated 10 percent of the Navajo population has diabetes, said David Foley. He is an epidemiologist for the Navajo Nation Division of Health. In numbers, thats about 24,600 people. Another 75,000 people are pre-diabetic.

The junk food tax is unprecedented. Thats not just in Indian Country but in the nation as a whole, said Crystal Echo Hawk. She was the executive director of the Notah Begay III Foundation. It is a non-profit organization that combats obesity and diabetes among Natives.

This is the only one in the country, so the national significance of this cannot be underplayed, she said. Bigger cities have been trying to get something like this passed for years. The Navajo Nation is the first to get it done.

Will the tax help improve health for the Navajo population? It will take time to know. Landry points out that the border towns around the reservation still will sell junk food. There, the cost will not include the extra tax. Buyers might go elsewhere to get their drinks.

There have been previous soda taxes. One is in Mexico. It began at the start of 2014. So far, it does seem to show some effect on soda sales. To what extent is debated. That is according to a report by Tamar Haspel for the Washington Post. It is a newspaper.

Haspel suggests another approach. Taxing added sugar in the supply chain. It might be more effective. She writes:

If we tax sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, fruit juice concentrate and other added sugars at the point where theyre manufactured or imported we essentially tax everything with added sugar. That is proportionate with its sugar content (with the exception of foods already manufactured before we import them). An input tax, its called.

The Navajo tax hike will expire at the end of 2018. The Council could vote to extend it. Or it could just go away.

For now, the Navajo Nation's tax raises many questions. For instance, will less soda be sold? And, will the fund to create active spaces for the tribe be successful?

It will take several years to find out.

Critical thinking challenge: Why was the tax removed from fresh fruit and vegetables?

Assigned 34 times


COMMENTS (109)
  • KeaganB-1
    4/12/2015 - 12:13 a.m.

    The United States government is trying to figure out how they should govern food that is bad for you. Many places such as Navajo are increasing sales tax on foods that are bad for you such as sodas chips, and pastries. Navajos are native Americans. Some places are banning the sales of large soda drinks. An estimated 10% of the Navajo population has diabetes. This probably cause for the increase of sales tax. I thought this article was very interesting and that I hope that they don't stop selling soda.

  • LenaL-Cla
    4/13/2015 - 12:14 p.m.

    I think governments should decrese junk food because it unheatly and i thinks the junk food shoud decrease or just go away i'm not saying bad commemts but if there were no more junk food other or some poeple would live a better life and they won't get sick or ill that way I think that junk food should decrease or go away like i said before.

  • ForrestC-Cla
    4/13/2015 - 12:15 p.m.

    The governor should leave the Drinks alone. But he should smaller cups

  • acruz112233
    4/13/2015 - 02:40 p.m.

    bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla cla bla

  • AlexisMa-Mor
    4/27/2015 - 04:51 p.m.

    The tax was removed from the fresh fruit and vegetables because they want to help people eat better. In the text it states If we tax sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, fruit juice concentrate and other added sugars at the point where they're manufactured or imported we essentially tax everything with added sugar. This shows that the government wants to make people pay more for our sugar. The government thinks (by the way the quote and tax) that buyers will not want to pay tax for their sugar, resulting to them buying the fresh produce. This problem/ argument can happen anywhere in the world. Worldwide, people essentially eat and drink a lot of soda and sugar. Nowadays, the government wants to fix our unhealthy eating. The taxes and bans on sugary foods do not seem to make a great difference in the Navajo Nation's, but if the government keeps on doing this, the rest of the U.S has to deal with new laws and taxes.

    • DavidSa-Mor
      4/30/2015 - 05:51 p.m.

      I agree and like how you used rsse with evedince/quotes

    • GraceN-Mor
      5/01/2015 - 10:31 p.m.

      I really like how you added direct quotes that strongly supported what you were thinking. You also added quite a lot onto that piece of evidence. :)

    • CindyW-Mor
      5/03/2015 - 09:06 a.m.

      Glows:
      -restated question/ answered
      -support from text
      -support from self
      -included a closing to teach a lesson

      Grows:
      none

  • RachelMo-Mor
    4/27/2015 - 07:32 p.m.

    the tax was removed from only fruits and vegetables but not junk food. Why? the junk food was never native to the Navajo community. the fruits and vegetables are, so the junk would cost more money. a lot of people like junk food. so the price was raised without making it seem that way. this even happens where we live.

  • JordanHe-Mor
    4/28/2015 - 03:17 p.m.

    The tax was removed from fresh fruit and vegetables because this tax made by the Navajo Nation of Health is focused on increasing the tax of sugary drinks, and low-nutrition foods. This group made this tax because over the past years, an epidemiologist for the NNH, David Foley, noticed that 10 percent of the Navajo population are diabetic. This is about 24,600 people, and the other 75,000 are pre-diabetic. In the text, it says, "The Navajo law will bring the total tax on low-nutrition foods to 7 percent. The increase in revenue will go towards a fund. The money will be used to build activity areas. (picnic grounds, swimming pools, etc,.)." This shows how this new Navajo law might get the Navajo population to eat healthier (because of the increased tax on junk foods) AND how the money the government receives will help to build activity areas. This means there are many benefits towards this new tax. Additionally, along with the tax, the Navajo Nation of Health will ban large sodas from being sold, so at least that is a start to a healthy diet. Lastly, this tax was removed from fresh fruits and vegetables because if they're going to tax most junk food, they will have to take a tax off something; and they chose fruits and vegetables because they're trying to get the Navajo to eat healthier. So if junk food is taxed, they will go for the non-taxed foods. In conclusion, this is why the Navajo Nation of Health tax was removed from fresh fruits and vegetables. This reminds me of how during the school year, in winter, if we have a 4th snow day (we get 3 each year), the Board of Education will have to take off a day of a break or add another day onto the school year (after the last day).

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