What Is The Tampon Tax?

Kaitlyn Luckow

Image souce: Tim Marshall

 

Imagine having to pay for something that was natural and completely out of your control.

Guess what?

We’re doing it.

Over the past few years, news and social media campaigns have brought light to the issue of the “tampon tax”, also known as the “pink tax”  in America as well as the rest of the world. Perhaps like you, I had no idea that this tax even existed until a few years ago. And I was just as taken aback as many people–and remain confused even today.

People are outraged and are demanding change because of this tampon tax, but do we fully understand what the tampon tax is?

Let me walk you through the logistics of the tampon tax and how we can create change to make all menstrual products more available and affordable to everyone–because there’s nothing more ridiculous than being charged for something you can’t control. 

What is even is the Tampon Tax, really?

Here is the most simplified version for you: 

In the United States of America, most states put a sales tax all items that are considered “tangible personal property.” However, states make exceptions for things that are considered “necessities.”

These necessities include groceries, anything purchased by food stamps, and medicine. These are pretty generic ones and some states differ on their definitions of “necessity”. For example, in New York, some of these “necessary” products include Viagra, Rogaine, and dandruff shampoo. Yes, you read that right. Viagra and Rogaine.

This is where tampons come in. When we talk about the “Tampon Tax”, we’re really referencing all menstrual products. Honestly, I think it’s just called the Tampon Tax for alliteration purposes.

The real question here is: Are tampons and other feminine hygiene products a “luxury item” or are they “necessities”?

People are asking the states to re-look at this issue, because the states have already decided and their decision is negatively affecting individuals everywhere in a sense of money and health.

Most states have said, “Yes, tampons are a luxury item.”

Currently, 41 out of the 50 states have additional taxes on feminine hygiene products, labeling them a “luxury item.”

On top of all of this, feminine hygiene products are also not deductible on income taxes because they are items for “personal use.”

Apparently, it’s a choice to use menstrual products. *insert eye roll here *

So, Are Tampons A Luxury Item?

I know that we all know that menstrual products are not luxury items.

Individuals who menstruate don’t have the luxury to decide that they need tampons or any other menstrual product for that matter.

It’s not like we wake up once a month and decide that it would be a good idea and a fun idea to start menstruating. Nope. Not the case.

Tampons and other feminine hygiene products, such as the NannoPad, are necessary. They’re necessary for not only equal opportunity for all people, but for people’s health and safety as well. 

In regards to money, this tax seems small and insignificant to some people, however, the costs add up. A study done by The Huffington Post estimates that a woman will spend $2,216 on feminine hygiene products in her lifetime.

Now, if you’re just looking at taxes, that’s approximately $155 in taxes alone (dependent on the sales tax in your state).

This debate is particularly important, because the tax only impacts individuals who are menstruating. A large majority of these individuals are women, who are already facing a gender wage gap.

This doesn’t even begin to think about how it affects people from different incomes. People who are struggling with money can’t just decide to stop menstruating. They don’t have the luxury or choice to do that.

Due to this, the effects of the tampon tax are even worse for homeless women and women who are incarcerated.

Those who can’t afford menstrual products are forced to use other methods of maintaining their hygiene. However, these other methods can harm their health. Using other items such as old clothes, socks, or toilet paper instead of menstrual products can lead to HPV and incontinence.

Not only is this negatively affecting their health, but it’s affecting their dignity. This tax has told them that they don’t have the right to basic respect.

The fight against the tampon tax is more than just about saving money. With the lack of good feminine hygiene, the consequences can be deadly. In 2014, The United Nations declared menstrual hygiene a public-health, gender-equality and human rights issue.

Jyoti Sanghera, the Chief of the UN Human Rights Office Economic and Social Issues Section said that the “stigma around menstruation and menstrual hygiene is a violation of several human rights, most importantly of the right to human dignity.”

What Can Be Done?

Thanks to advocates, activists, and lawmakers, there are states that are listening to the people and are making changes to tax laws to get rid of the tampon tax. So far, nine states have exempted menstrual products from the sales tax. These states include Minnesota, Pennsylvania, New York, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Jersey, Connecticut, Florida, and Illinois. 

After Illinois passed a law that abolished the tampon tax,  Senator Melinda Bush (D)made a statement in The Daily News stating, “This is just the start of a conversation about the unfair ‘pink taxes’ women face as they buy products priced higher than similar ones marketed to men or, in this case, as they have to spend on products that men don’t.”

State representative of Ohio, Brigid Kelly introduced a pending bill in Ohio to end the sales tax. She acknowledged that the tax doesn’t really make much money for the state, but it makes all the difference for individuals who are struggling to make ends meet.

Other states in the United States that are currently pending to create legislation to exempt feminine hygiene products from their sales tax include Wisconsin, Nevada, Nebraska, and Arizona.

In other parts of the world, change has already occurred or is slated to occur soon.  Kenya was the first country to abolish the tampon tax way back in 2004. Countries that followed suit include Australia, Canada, and the United Kingdom.

Along with life-changing legislation, everyday steps can be taken right now to help those who are victims of the Tampon Tax.

If you are able, donating menstrual products to homeless shelters or schools is a great way to combat the current legislation and make a positive change today in order to help those who need it most.

The Tampon Tax is technically about determining the “luxury” of an item, but we know that it’s about dignity and the distribution of equality. Every individual in the world deserves the same access to necessary menstrual health items. Tampons aren’t a luxury–they are necessary.

 

Nannocare has donated over 10,000 NannoPad to the homeless shelter for women in need since it’s launched at April 2018. The price of NannoPad has been adjusted to be as affordable as possible for our customers without lowering the high-standard of quality. Read more about Nannocare’s story, click here.

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