CARSON CITY – Assemblyman Harvey Munford, D-Las Vegas, said today he will try again with a bill in the 2013 session to impose a fee on some items sold at fast-food restaurants in an effort to help combat the national obesity epidemic.
Munford’s proposal, which he said may be expanded to include “junk food” type items sold in other food establishments as well, is one of 144 bill draft requests listed on the Nevada Legislature’s website.
Munford said his idea is to increase the cost of fast-food items in an effort to get people to choose healthier foods. Money raised from the fee would be directed at programs to combat obesity, he said.
“Not that we were going to deny anybody the opportunity to purchase those things,” he said. “But we just want to put a little tax on it just to make them conscious that it would be a little more expensive than it normally would be.”
The fee might act as a deterrent and get parents to think twice before opting to buy less healthy fast-food items, Munford said.
Munford said he will work with legislative legal staff to refine his proposal and define clearly which items would be subject to the fee.
He introduced similar legislation in the 2011 session, but Assembly Bill 399 did not get a hearing. That bill imposed a five cent fee on fast-food items that contained 500 calories or more.
Munford said a proposal by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg to ban the sale of large-size sugary sodas in the city because of concerns about obesity has helped convince him to try again with his bill.
Nevada would not be the first state to consider a “fat tax”. A California lawmaker in 2011 proposed a penny-an-ounce tax on soda pop and other sweetened drinks. The bill did not pass.
The Nevada State Health Division issued a report in 2010 indicating that statewide, 18 percent of 4th, 7th and 10th graders are overweight and 20 percent are obese.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 17 percent, or 12.5 million children aged 2 to 19 are obese. Since 1980, obesity prevalence among children and adolescents has almost tripled.
Assemblyman Harvey Munford says he wants a fee charged on unhealthy fast-food items in an effort to deter obesity: