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WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. — The Navajo Nation Council approved a tax on junk food sold on the country's largest reservation, tribal officials announced Friday. Lawmakers voted 10-4 to impose a 2 percent sales tax on items such as cookies, chips and sodas. If signed into law by President Ben Shelly, the "Healthy Dine Nation Act of 2014" would remain in effect until 2020.
The Tribal Council previously failed to pass the legislation in April and Shelly vetoed the measure earlier this year. In the past, Shelly said he supports the proposal's intent but questioned how the higher tax on snacks high in fat, sugar and salt would be enacted and regulated. Supporters say the tax is another tool in their fight for the health of the people.
American Indians and Alaska Natives as a whole have the highest age-adjusted prevalence of diabetes among U.S. racial and ethnic groups, according to the American Diabetes Association. The proposed tax wouldn't add significantly to the price of junk food, but buying food on the reservation presents obstacles that don't exist in most of urban America. The reservation is a sprawling 27,000 square miles with few grocery stores and a population with an unemployment rate of around 50 percent.
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— The Associated Press