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The Tampon Tax: Should There Be a Sales Tax on Female Hygiene Products?

WRITTEN BY: Emma Coffey

The tampon tax is a phrase that is used to raise awareness for feminine hygiene products, such as tampons, that are subjected to sales tax. 

Women need easy access to tampons and pads during menstrual periods, and with a sales tax on these items, it can be a challenging time for women in America. Many states do not have taxes on things that are not necessary to the health of a person such as tampons. 

The issue of the tampon tax is evident in southern states like Alabama, where people can buy something in a snack machine without tax, but in the same state, women need to pay tax for tampons. This is a divided issue in America as there is a large amount of support for the tampon tax as well as a large amount of people who oppose the tampon tax.

Proponents for removing the sales tax on female hygiene products argue that products such as tampons should not be taxed because they are a necessity for women and non-binary people, and it can have a negative financial impact on those who are struggling with income. 

Additionally, these hygiene products can be categorized as healthcare because they can prevent infections in women. 

Proponents also make the claim that the tax is discriminatory because men are not affected by these hygiene products. However, some legislators feel that tampons should be treated as a luxury, because it is not a necessity; but, products like Viagra do not have sales tax because it is considered a medical necessity. 

According to an Associated Press article, Kenya became the first country in the world to repeal the tax on tampons and pads in 2004, and a few other countries have followed Kenya’s legislation, but not many. 

In the United States, 31 states have sales tax on feminine hygiene products. In New Jersey, tampons are part of medical items sold for use and in Massachusetts they are an exception for health care, conveying that these items are essential to the health of women. 

Tennessee is one of the many states that does have sales tax placed on feminine hygiene products. A proposed bill’s fiscal note says the tax sales rate for feminine hygiene products in Tennessee is 7%, meaning women spend about $120 each year on feminine products.

In February of 2020 for the sales tax-free weekend, a proposal that would have made tampons tax-free for three days was denied in Tennessee. The Associated Press stated that the reasoning for blocking the proposal is that Tennessee GOP lawmakers were worried that women would abuse the law and overbuy feminine products. 

However, the lawmakers believed computers and costumes are more of a necessity than feminine hygiene products.

University of Tennessee students have opinions on why they agree or disagree with the tampon tax. John Lehn, freshman in anthropology, is against the tax.

“I do not agree with a tax on feminine products because they are a necessity for women; it does not make sense that other products get the tax exemption, but feminine hygiene products do not,” Lehn said.

When asked about the tampon tax, Olivia Hailey, freshman public relations major, stated that the tax should not exist as women cannot control whether or not they have a period.

“I disagree with the tampon tax because no woman can help having a natural period and should not have to pay extra for a necessity. Additionally, even if a woman went on some type of birth control to stop her period, she would still have to pay,” Hailey said. 

“There is no free way to deal with a period, and for some women, there is no affordable way. Women already have enough disadvantages, so we should not have to pay any more than necessary for something that is already a hassle to deal with that men do not.”

Mary-Margaret Murray, senior human resources management major, explained her strong feelings against the tampon tax.

“I wholeheartedly believe that tampons, sanitary napkins, and other feminine products should not

be taxed due to them being a basic necessity for all individuals who have a period. If you were to

ask me what I deemed a ‘luxury’ item, as tampons have been deemed, I would probably name

10 million other products prior to listing tampons,” Murray said.

“I do not believe that not bleeding through my pants each month is a luxury — I believe that I am just providing cisgender men the luxury of not having to see blood every 30 days. Realistically, the taxes incurred from these products are most likely to hit individuals experiencing the downfalls of the gender pay gap — especially for women of color who are affected the most severely.”

Murray continued that lawmakers should reevaluate their thoughts and think about who their decisions are affecting.

“Because these sorts of products are a necessity for any menstruating individual, but the decision

to tax them is made by a legislature predominantly made up of cisgender males, it arouses many

questions surrounding the practicality of having people establish laws that they arguably may not

have the grounds to weigh in on,” Murray said.

There is clearly a strong opposition to the tax, with students expressing that the tax is unfair and sexist. 

The removal of the tampon tax would allow for accessible menstrual products for all women, making them much more affordable, as hygiene products like tampons or pads are basic products that every woman needs.