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Why We Need to End the “Tampon Tax”


Tampons forming the word TAX on a red background

In a previous post we talked about the “pink tax,” an unjustifiable upcharge on products designed specifically for women. In this post we’re zeroing in on the “tampon tax,” a colloquialism for taxes on menstrual products. ________________________________________________________________________


Check out Tigress, a podcast hosted by menstrual equity and mental health activist Nadya Okamoto.

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On any given day, 800,000 people on the planet are menstruating. Two-thirds of those individuals don’t have adequate access to period supplies.


In the United States, dozens of states still apply sales tax to period necessities like tampons, pads, and period cups, adding to the cost burden of these products.


It’s often referred to as a “luxury tax,” but ask anyone who menstruates if they think it’s a “luxury” to not have to worry about bleeding through their pants every month, and you can expect to get some serious side eye.


Period products are out of reach for too many people.

Making items like pads and tampons more expensive through taxation hurts everyone who menstruates, but especially those struggling with poverty. The impacts can be far-reaching.

Thousands of women, girls, and others who menstruate skip work or school every month simply because they can’t afford tampons or pads.


For students, lack of period equity can mean lost educational opportunities. For working people, it can mean loss of income. For both, it’s a blow to their dignity and humanity.


Women spend an average of $9 a month on period products, which may not sound like much. However, in a family where two, three, or more members get their periods every month, these numbers quickly add up.


People who can’t afford tampons or pads often resort to using household items like socks, towels, or even newspapers to manage their periods. This is not only dehumanizing, but can also lead to dangerous infections.


The average American woman will experience 450 periods in her lifetime, which means she’ll pay anywhere between $100 and $225 in taxes on menstrual products. Since women (especially women of color) are already at a disadvantage because of the gender pay gap, taxes on these essential items are yet another hit to a woman’s finances.


A report published in Obstetrics and Gynecology found that two-thirds (64%) of women surveyed were unable to afford menstrual hygiene supplies during the previous year. One in five said they were unable to afford these products every month.


Lack of access hurts young people.

Not having access to period products like tampons and pads is especially hard on young people. One student described the stress of seeing their peers crying and having panic attacks in the school bathroom because of lack of access to pads.


Many schools don’t stock bathrooms with menstrual hygiene products. Others keep them in the nurse’s office, and some don’t supply these essential items at all.


While states like California have passed legislation requiring schools in low-income districts to provide free period products in school bathrooms, others have turned a blind eye to the suffering of their own students.


Difficulty accessing period products at school only adds to the stigma around menstruation.


A study commissioned by Thinx and PERIOD reported that 70% of students said their school environment makes them especially self-conscious of their period. Two-thirds (65%) said they don’t want to be at school when they have their periods, and nearly four in ten said they often or sometimes can’t do their best school work due to lack of access to period products.


How can we turn this around?


First, we can abolish the “tampon tax” in all states. Menstruators shouldn’t have to struggle to afford basic necessities. A tax on menstrual products is not only unfair, but some argue it’s also unconstitutional.


Next, we can make period products free and easily accessible in all schools. Students shouldn’t have to struggle or miss school simply because they don’t have pads or tampons.


sanitary tampon and towel

How can you help?

  • Write or call your state representatives and ask them to eliminate the tax on tampons and other menstrual necessities in your state.

  • Support initiatives to create menstrual equity and end period poverty.

  • Make a difference in your community. Call your local school district today and ask them to provide students with free menstrual products.

We all have a role to play in putting an end to the unfair and discriminatory tampon tax and creating period equity.


Want more great content?

Check out theTigress podcast hosted by Nadya Okamoto, a champion for menstrual equity and mental health. Nadya muses about where she’s been, where she’s going, and how she’s learning to channel her inner tigress.