Tampons are Not a Luxury. Period.

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Illustration by Darin Connolly.

If candy and Viagra are considered basic necessities in the California Revenue and Taxation Code, pads and tampons should be too.

In early May, California Gov. Gavin Newsom proposed a plan to exempt menstrual hygiene products and diapers from sales tax for five years. Many other Californian legislators have fought to repeal the tampon tax in the past, but their proposals never succeeded because of fear the state would lose $20 million annually — which is about how much Californians pay in total taxes for pads and tampons.

Menstruation should not come with a state tax. Menstruating is not a choice — it can’t be controlled or turned off and it’s unfair to tax individuals for experiencing natural bodily functions they didn’t ask for.

Fifteen other states, including New York, Nevada and New Jersey, already passed legislation to ease the expenses for menstrual hygiene products.

Their taxation codes consider menstrual products a medical supply, exempting pads and tampons from sales tax and making these necessities more accessible to low-income  communities.

Gauze and bandages are considered medical supplies because they prevent blood from flowing outside the body. Pads and tampons do the same, so why aren’t they considered medical supplies in California too?

Studies show that low-income women in New Jersey who struggled to obtain menstrual products were able to access and afford pads and tampons after New Jersey legislation repealed the tampon tax. 

Some people can’t change their pads or tampons regularly because they can’t afford to buy enough to last them through their entire cycle. Periods are already a burden on the body — they shouldn’t be a burden on the wallet too. 

Menstrual care and hygiene products aren’t luxury items. They’re necessary to lessen the hassle and discomfort of periods. 

NPR’s “The Indicator from Planet Money” co-host Stacey Vanek Smith said modifying what is allowed to be exempt from sales tax complicates what qualifies as a “good exemption,” but it isn’t complicated. All “good” tax-exempt items are basic needs, and menstrual products are exactly that to half the population.

The California legislature must repeal the tampon tax and consider making the tax exemption permanent, as opposed to the current proposal of a five-year exemption. This problem can also be tackled on a more local level — on campus with the Student Union Assembly  (SUA).

Other UC campuses are taking action to make period products more accessible for their students. Earlier this month, UC Davis’ student senate passed a bill to fund free menstrual products in their campus bathrooms. UC Berkeley started offering free pads and tampons in their library restrooms in April. 

We need to push SUA to follow suit. Students shouldn’t have to improvise and use toilet paper in place of a pad if they don’t have one on them. Sometimes there’s no time to buy tampons in between classes. Periods are already a burden to bodies and budgets — they shouldn’t get in the way of education too.


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