Navajo nation to get first junk food tax in U.S.
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 soda? An outright ban on large sugary drinks? A tiny tax? Or not at all? This debate has been playing out in New York, Berkeley in California and places in between and one community recently made drastic moves to target peoples eating habits.

The Navajo National Council just announced that it has approved a 2-percent increase in sales tax on foods like pastries, fried foods, desserts, chips and sodas, reports Leilani Clark for Mother Jones. 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, as well as 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.

Called the Healthy Din Nation Act, this law hasn't attracted the same amount of media attention as New York's infamous soda ban. But it will bring the total tax on low-nutrition foods to 7 percent. All the revenue from the increase will go toward a fund to build "wellness centers, parks, basketball courts, trails, swimming pools, picnic grounds and health education classes," reports Alysa Landry for Indian Country. She adds:

An estimated 10 percent of the Navajo population has diabetes, said David Foley, 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, not just in Indian Country but in the nation as a whole, said Crystal Echo Hawk, former executive director of the Notah Begay III Foundation, 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 and the Navajo Nation is the first to get it done.

Whether the tax will help health outcomes for the Navajo population remains to be seen. Landry points out that the border towns around the reservation will still sell junk food without the extra tax. However, previous soda taxes, such as the one in Mexico that began at the start of 2014, do seem to show some effect on soda sales though to what extent is debated, reports Tamar Haspel for the Washington Post. Haspel suggests that taxing added sugar in the supply chain itself might be a more effective approach. 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 already do tax imported sugar), we essentially tax everything with added sugar, commensurate with its sugar content (with the exception of foods already manufactured before we import them). An input tax, its called.

The Navajo Nations tax is somewhere between a soda tax and an input tax. Whether the tax and the fund to create active spaces for the tribe helps, remains to be seen. And there is probably a timeline: The tax hike will expire at the end of 2018 unless the Council votes to extend it.

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

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Assigned 31 times

  • nylienc-Koc
    4/13/2015 - 04:51 a.m.

    I didnt read the whole thing but if were making stand to have less junk food in the country then i would be mad but also sad/furious.

  • TaylorHartman-Ste
    4/13/2015 - 01:10 p.m.

    Truthfully, America would go into a great depression again if they ever taxed fast food over here. We rely too heavily on fast food and the pleasures it gives to our stomachs and our wallets.

  • amandam-Koc
    4/13/2015 - 01:44 p.m.

    The tax was removed from fruits and vegetables because of the junk food, the govern want the people to eat more half food them junk food, and this was the idea to remove the tax from fruits and vegetables and put more taxes in junk food.

  • Julian10
    4/15/2015 - 12:45 p.m.

    Navajo is the first place in the united states to receive a tax on fast food. Navajo county has approved a 2-percent tax on junk food. They started taxing goods like pastries, fried foods, desserts, chips and, soda. All that income will go to building parks, swimming pools, basketball courts, tennis courts and much more. Following this tax on junk food it has lifted the tax on veggies and fruits.

  • TehyaWhite-Ste
    4/16/2015 - 12:55 p.m.

    I think this is good idea! I always say how people don't eat healthy because healthy food is way more expensive. It is about time somebody started to take a step in this direction.

  • camzycam
    4/17/2015 - 11:33 a.m.

    I think they shouldn't even tax on fast food restaurants. It's just too much for them just to tax on junk food. Well the good thing is that they removed tax from fresh fruits and vegetables. But adding tax to fast food restaurants it's doing to much. If they do start taxing on fast food i wouldn't even bother buying it. We eat out at least 2 times each month. But i do get the fact people do go overboard with eating fatty foods. So i some what agree with this choice

  • clairedoucet
    4/17/2015 - 01:02 p.m.

    Personally, I believe that taxing soda and added sugar is a smart idea based on all of the obesity problems in the U.S. I googled obesity in the United States and saw that based on people eating and drinking a bunch of added sugars, such as soda , that 1 out of 3 people in the U.S. are overweight as compared to only 1 out of 5 in Europe. My opinion is that every state should tax soda and soon tax all added sugars because doing this could solve the worlds obesity problem. In the places that are taxing at least 1 cent per ounce there is about a 15-25% consumption decrease. Soda is good to have but, just for the right occasions. I personally know plenty of kids and adults that will at least have 1-2 cans a day which is very unhealthy because soda doesn't have any health benefits: its is caffeinated, has added sugar, and packs a ton of calories in just one little can. People who drink soda also need to drink water because soda contains sugar and caffeine which cause dehydration and that is not good for your body. Overall, I agree with the soda tax because it would help with obesity and diabetes issues, also if you cut out soda or have it very reasonably then you will lead a healthier life.

  • camh-Eic
    4/21/2015 - 11:22 a.m.

    they do not charge tax for jink food OK that is just bad junk food is horrible for you Cage taxes for bad stuff I mean seriously that is just stupid.

  • stephanieg-Che
    4/21/2015 - 01:52 p.m.

    If a 2% tax is added it wont change anything the people are still going to eat out. Wow do they know why most people prefer fast food because healthy food be costing a lot and its faster to get something that is cooked buy someone else. It's a good thing that the money they get from this new tax goes toward building wellness centers, parks, basketball courts, trails, swimming pools, picnic grounds and other ways to get healthy.

  • codyh-Man
    5/11/2015 - 10:23 a.m.

    I think Navajo is doing the right thing on putting a tax on junk food because a lot of people there are either obese or have diabetes this why i think their doing the right thing

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