Tampon Taxes Bleed Women Dry
February 12, 2016
As the highly politicized debates over women’s rights rage on, a new battleground has emerged over the so-called tampon tax. In all but a few states, feminine hygiene products like tampons and pads are subject to sales tax, while other necessary items related to health, including prescription drugs and food, are not. California assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, an advocate for the removal of the tampon tax said, “basically we are being taxed for being women.” Indeed, sanitary products are far from a luxury — they are a necessity.
Any way you approach it, period care is a large expense that affects over half the population. A recent estimate by the Huffington Post calculated that a woman’s period costs a staggering $18,171 over her lifetime. Feminine products are mandatory for most women who want to maintain good health and hygiene, and therefore must be made more affordable. If the New York City government offers free condoms, then it should offer free or discounted tampons and pads as well if it is genuinely concerned about the sexual health and well-being of its citizens. The same analogy applies to NYU and other universities where condoms are readily available but feminine hygiene products are not.
While the topic of menstruation has become much less taboo in American society, it is still too often met with trepidation and ignorance, especially by men. It is this very reluctance to talk it out that is actively compounding the issue. Even President Obama was caught off guard when questioned about the tampon tax, claiming to have “no idea” why they are often taxed as luxury items. He speculated that the tampon tax could be a result of the mostly-male legislatures that put state tax codes into practice. As nice as it is that Obama has acknowledged the absurdity of this tax, words are never a substitute for action. At the fact that the President recognizes how skewed the tax is and its need to be removed is encouraging.
Beyond this Presidential acknowledgement, there are a few other positive strides being made to address the issue, New York City council member Julisa Ferreras-Copeland is spearheading efforts to require all public schools in the city to supply free tampons and pads in restrooms, while also advocating for wider availability of these products to homeless women. New York Congresswoman Grace Meng recently proposed a bill that allows women to pay for hygiene products with their health-care spending accounts.
When it comes to health and hygiene, women must be our own best advocates. If the old men in our state legislatures don’t understand that feminine hygiene is indeed a necessity, we have to let them know. We need to make our voices heard in order to make tampon taxes history.
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Email Annie Cohen at [email protected]