WINDOW ROCK, AZ -- The Navajo Nation Council has approved a tax on "junk food" that is believed to be the first of its kind not only in Indian Country, but also in United States.
Called the Healthy Diné Nation Act, the new law, passed on Jan. 30 and imposes a 2% sales tax, in addition to the Navajo Nation's current 5% sales tax, on "junk food" sold within the nation. The legislation targets sweetened beverages and snacks low in essential nutrients and high in salt, fat and sugar, including chips, candy, cookies and pastries. It excludes nuts, nut butters and seeds.
The legislation was sponsored by Navajo Nation Council Delegate Danny Simpson, who said the sales tax increase is part of an overall effort to promote healthy living and call attention to the diabetes epidemic that is affecting a growing number of Navajo people.
"Each one of us here has a relative that's diabetic, and we face that fact every single day," Simpson said.
According to the council, the revenue collected from the 2% sales tax will be deposited into the Community Wellness Development Projects Fund. The revenue will be used by Navajo chapters to develop parks, basketball courts, walking, running and bike trails, community gardens, family picnic grounds and health education classes.
Following passage of the Healthy Diné Nation Act, the council also passed a separate bill that eliminates the current 5% sales tax on fresh fruits and vegetables to encourage the purchase and consumption of "high-quality foods."