Tampon tax driving product prices sky high


Alaina Bigelow,

In March of this year, Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia and Lorenza Gonzalez Fletcher proposed a bill that would increase the tax on hard liquor and get rid of the tax on female “luxury items.”

More than a year ago Democratic Governor Jerry Brown vetoed a bill that would remove the tax on feminine products because without it, the state would lose approximately $20 million dollars of its $125.1 billion dollar budget.

If the tax exemption were to pass in California, prices on other items in the state may increase slightly to make up for the loss of a medical necessity the majority of women depend on.

For those unfamiliar with items considered non-taxable in the state of California, candy bars, Viagra and medicated condoms are some at the top of the list. How is it then that menstrual products are seen as something women could live without? Maybe if all the women in the United States agreed to free bleed in public, quick steps would be taken to ensure our natural bodily functions were covered up for a cheaper price.

Women in nine out of the 50 states are currently being taxed for every period product they buy. In addition to paychecks that are approximately 77 cents less than a man’s dollar, they are charged around 66 cents extra for products they genuinely cannot live without. Sales tax is different across the country, and according to the Tax Foundation, in an article in The Washington Post, it can vary from 2.9 to 7.5 percent on average in separate states.

Between 1981 and 2005, Minnesota, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania dissolved their tampon tax, and two more followed in suit in the later years according to The Washington Post. Oregon, Montana, Alaska, and New Hampshire naturally do not charge sales tax in their states, and period problems for women there are less prevalent.

So while the majority of women use pads and tampons, they pay different amounts for the exact same product. All may be fair in love and war but nothing is more unstable than modern menstruation. Instead of classifying period products as luxury items, tax on hard liquor could and should be increased by $1 to $2 dollars more to make up for the loss of women’s luxury products.

Assemblywoman Garcia has been instrumental in advocating for a ban on tampon tax. In an interview with The Washington Post earlier this year, Garcia explained simply, “Basically we are being taxed for being women… Women have no choice but to buy these products, so the economic effect is only felt by women.”  

For women living in poverty, buying period hygiene items may be low on the list of priorities. Food, bills, transportation and other means of livelihood are costly and some women may have to choose between having a hot meal or sanitary items. Until recently, period talk has been a fairly taboo subject in America, and more so in other parts of the world. Now that more light is being shed on the matter, steps have been taken to promote understanding and changes for the modern period.

Dylan Lochridge-Fletcher, a graduate student at the University of Texas, majoring in mass communication founded the website http://tampontax.dylanlf.com. Here she discusses the facts relating to period problems in America and advocates for change regarding the taxing of period products and women’s biology.

She told the Pioneer, “As a woman, I feel that it’s ludicrous that I’m being punished for something that I do not have control over monthly. My menstrual cycle is a fact of life and with this fact, I have to buy menstrual products as a need and not a want.”

It’s no doubt Lochridge-Fletcher and almost every other woman in America feels strongly about this once taboo subject now just beginning to surface in the public eye. There should be no reason to charge women extra money for a biological factor that is out of their control.

Can women find the courage to challenge the system and finally break the social norm that’s holding them down? But how many women actually know they are spending more for their sanitary items? I believe if they knew viagra was non-taxable but period products are still considered a luxury then the conversation would be different.

“In order to get the majority of women involved, awareness needs to become a priority about this tax! I didn’t even realize I was being overcharged for years until college, and I’m sure that’s a common theme as well,” Lochridge-Fletcher told the Pioneer.

But what’s going on on campus at East Bay? An employee at the Student Health Center told the Pioneer said, “students can come to the health center to get a maximum of two pads and two tampons a day.” According to the source, this service has been around, “for more than 20 years.”

For anyone who has ever had a period, they know two pads and two tampons are not enough to get through the day, especially if it’s a heavier flow. Not all hope is lost yet because Alex Baker, Case Management Coordinator for Pioneers for Hope collects feminine hygiene and toiletry products not only for women on campus, but also for women in the community.

As an impacted woman I would like to see progressive steps taken by our government to either lower the cost of sanitary items or end the tax on products myself, and countless other women require to keep ourselves clean and continue with our daily lives. In the same way our neighbor Canada has banned tampon tax, the leaders in our government should continue moving forward with passing the legislation.