The Case Against the Tampon Tax
Emmalee Fischer of @womenactivists2020 argues in favour of abolishing taxes on menstrual products.
On average, those born with uteruses menstruate from age thirteen to fifty-one. Periods last for about three to seven days, equalling 456 periods in one's lifetime. This amounts to approximately 6.25 years of menstruating. Although taxes on period products go to help fund many things in today’s society, it is unfair to tax these products because one does not simply choose to have a period every month. Government assistance programs do not cover menstrual hygiene products, nor are they considered a "medical need".
In a Bloomberg article What Life Would Look like Without the “Tampon Tax” , Hannah Recht explains: “Tampons and pads cant be purchased through government assistance programs like SNAP or Medicaid and shelters and foodbanks say that they’re among their most requested items.” Immediately it is clear that, despite the urgent need for these items, the programmes are failing to meet their one objective: to provide necessities - not just food. Recht continues, “The Internal Revenue Service doesn’t classify tampons and pads as medical expenses, which means they can’t be purchased with untaxed earnings.” She elaborates: ”Most exempt groceries and medications as necessities, but don’t extend that break to menstrual supplies. State and local taxes can add more than nine percent to the cost of products.” Despite having access to government assistance programs, period products remain unavailable to those in dire need. Thus, the only way to obtain these products is to buy them at standard retail price, as expensive as they are.
Such products are simply a need, rather than a want. Writing for The Hill, Sameena Rahman bolsters this point: “Many of these women in correctional facilities are then forced to develop makeshift sanitation products, which can lead to serious health consequences.” Often those incarcerated are forced to create makeshift items, and even reuse them. This can cause serious health issues such as yeast infections and UTIs (urinary tract infections).
New Hampshire State Representative Polly Campion believes “Being an adolescent middle or high schooler is hard enough without the fear and embarrassment of lacking proper care products during the school-day because you cannot afford them.” If period products weren't taxed, students wouldn't have to miss school or other activities, nor would they fear being embarrassed about their periods.
Many people may ask, “if we did not tax these items, how would the companies make any money?” The companies would still make a profit, but it would just be the government (depending on which state you live in) that would not.
Period products are not a luxury. They are essential goods, which are already very expensive, and would continue to be so, even without tax. Government assistance programs have failed to provide basic goods, and many are continuing to pay excessive amounts of money for something that is out of their control. Those who cannot afford such products are at risk of medical complications, may fall behind academically, and may be deprived of extracurricular opportunities.