Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Which Nation Just Voted To Impose Higher Taxes On Junk Foods?

The Navajo Nation. See Navajos Vote to Try Junk-Food Tax in Fight Against Obesity by Ana Campoy of The Wall Street Journal.

This week two of my classes picked a chapter on obesity to read from the book The Economics of Public Issues. Rising obesity rates are partly a result of food getting cheaper and people leading more sedentary lives (which in turn is a result of rising relative pay for jobs that don't require as much physical exertion).

Here are excerpts from the WSJ article:
"Leaders of the Navajo Nation, whose people are struggling with obesity, along with those of numerous other Native American tribes, voted to impose higher taxes on junk foods while eliminating taxes on healthier alternatives.

The changes, passed Thursday by the Navajo Nation's tribal council, represent the latest attempt by U.S. communities to use legislation to encourage people to eat more healthily.

Under the proposed laws, which require approval by the tribe's president, taxes on soda and fatty snacks will go up to 7% from the current 5%, while fresh fruits, vegetables and nuts won't be taxed at all."

"Opponents, including some Navajo lawmakers, said members of the impoverished tribe couldn't afford higher taxes on anything. They predicted the tax changes would drive some to purchase items such as soda and potato chips at stores outside the reservation."

"Supporters of the Navajo junk-food tax said it was necessary given the rate of obesity and diabetes on Indian reservations. Roughly one in three Navajos is diabetic or pre-diabetic, and anywhere between 23% and 60% are obese, according to data presented to the tribal lawmakers.

Native Americans in general are 60% more likely to be obese than non-Hispanic whites, and more than twice as likely to be diagnosed with diabetes, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services."
 Another thing  about obesity is that it seems like if you are obese as a very young child, you tend to stay that way. See Obesity Is Found to Gain Its Hold in Earliest Years by GINA KOLATA of The New York Times. Excerpt:
"For many obese adults, the die was cast by the time they were 5 years old. A major new study of more than 7,000 children has found that a third of children who were overweight in kindergarten were obese by eighth grade. And almost every child who was very obese remained that way.

Some obese or overweight kindergartners lost their excess weight, and some children of normal weight got fat over the years. But every year, the chances that a child would slide into or out of being overweight or obese diminished. By age 11, there were few additional changes: Those who were obese or overweight stayed that way, and those whose weight was normal did not become fat."

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