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The Low Down on the Tampon Tax in the US

Do You Know If You're Being Charged the Tampon Tax?

Every woman knows that it's impossible to go to work, run errands, and attend meetings without the necessary menstrual products. That is why tampons and pads should be seen as a right to all women rather than a luxury. Every woman can attest that there is nothing luxurious about cramps, fatigue, acne and sometimes even worse effects that we feel during our period – Every. Single. Month.

The average woman buys, uses and throws away 11,000 tampons during her lifetime.[1]  By the time that we stop menstruating, we will have spent $800 on Tampon Tax. Even though the price makes it difficult for people with lower income to be able to afford menstrual hygiene care, there is a bigger issue of principle at hand.

Right now, forty states make consumers pay taxes on tampons and pads.[2] There are only five states in the US that do not impose a tampon tax.[3]  The issue has made it on the agenda in about 10 states, seven of which introduced the legislation, including New York (though, Utah’s never made it out of committee) and three, South Carolina, Tennessee and Illinois, that recently debated it.[4]  If you want to join the petition to end it, sign here.

As I was researching the ways that women dealt with the Tampon Tax, I found an instance that a woman chose not to menstruate at all. She took her contraceptive pill throughout the month, skipping the sugar pill because “at the end of the day, the pill is free and tampons aren’t.”[5] We feel you girl, but note to readers: this could put your health at risk.

Additionally, feminine hygiene products are not deductible on income taxes because they would be seen as "personal use" items, which the IRS does not include as medical care.[6]  This makes the Tampon Tax and menstrual hygiene products in general more of an issue of principle, rather than costliness.

Items like adult diapers and prescription drugs such as Rogaine and Viagra are tax-exempt.[7] Why? Probably because men wrote the law.[8] If tampons are a hygiene product that every woman needs, shouldn’t they be treated as an essential item? By classifying them as anything other than essential is an insult to women. You see, the Tampon Tax doesn’t just raise issues of whether women should pay for tampons and men pay for sexual pills – it questions our whole system.

Even Obama is stumped on why states would tax menstrual hygiene products, but he does have a good back up answer that we appreciate. “This raises a broader question that I’ve been working on since I came into office which was, how do we make sure that everybody has decent health care, preventive care and women in particular have the health care that they need,” he said. “The basic idea is that women should not be at a disadvantage in the health care system and this is just one more example of it, which I confess I was not aware of until you brought it to my attention.”

So the US doesn’t give women fair health care, but what about the rest of the world? Currently, the VAT (value added tax) is levied on feminine hygiene products in most of the world, with the exception of a handful of countries.[9]  Ireland, Jamaica, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Tanzania, Lebanon and Kenya, there is no Tampon Tax and also no import tax on sanitary products.[10]

In countries such as India, girls cannot attend school while they are on their period because they often lack menstrual products.[11]  That means that they miss a week of school every single month because of something that their body naturally does. It is for this reason that Cora supports these girls by giving them hygiene products to use in order for them to be able to go to school every single week of the year.


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