Lola Founders Explain the Terribleness of the Tampon Tax
Meet the two young women who are working to change periods—period.
Picture this...you’re cruising through the drugstore, filling up your cart with some necessities. So far, you’ve got a fancy new face wash, some Chapstick, a pint of ice cream, and a box of tampons (why else would you be stocking up on ice cream?). Pop quiz: Which is the only item in your basket that is subject to sales tax?
If you said tampons, you’d be right (unfortunately). While most states have standard sales tax exemptions for various basic necessities like food, medication, and certain personal care products, 40 out of 50 states currently charge sales tax on feminine care products like pads and tampons. The tax can range anywhere between 4.35% in Hawaii to 9.45% in Tennessee.
And when you do the math, the tax has implications way beyond dropping an extra dollar or two on tampons each month. The typical woman uses an average of 11,000 tampons in her lifetime—when you break it down, that could mean spending over $1,700 on these completely necessary products during our menstruating years. Moreover, for low-income women, an additional fee on top of the cost of tampons may mean the difference between being able to buy feminine care products vs. not (especially when you take into account that food stamps can’t be used on feminine care since they’re designated as “non-essential”).
So, how’d we get here to begin with? Turns out, even POTUS isn’t sure. When YouTube star Ingrid Nilsen questioned President Obama on why tampons are taxed during an interview in 2015, he responded, “I have to tell you, I have no idea why states would tax these as luxury items. I suspect it’s because men were making the laws when those taxes were passed.”
And we couldn’t agree more. Just because a product may only apply to women, it doesn’t make it any less necessary. The frustrating part is that the tampon tax could be so easily reversed. Canada ditched its tax last summer and EU leaders struck a deal this year to eliminate its tax on menstrual products as well. What’s taking so long in the US?
Because sales tax and exemptions are determined at the state level, axing the tax requires legislative effort in each individual state in order for the tax to be repealed nationwide. But the good news is that lawmakers are starting to take notice. In the past year, 15 states have introduced legislation to repeal the tax, with exemptions being approved in Connecticut (effective 2018), Chicago (city tax only; effective 2017), Mississippi, and a law awaiting Governor Cuomo’s signature in New York state (great news—he’s already pledged his support for the law). And it’s not just female politicians who are taking notice. Michigan Senator David Knezek introduced tampon tax legislation in his state after encountering the tax when buying tampons for his girlfriend.
But, it’s not all green pastures for tampon tax laws. Bills were shot down in Utah, Tennessee, and Indiana, where one Senator argued that the tax only alleviates a burden for women, and was, therefore, a “sexist” proposal.
If you ask us (menstruating women who can assure you there’s nothing non-essential about tampons), it’s time to re-classify tampons from luxury to necessity. It’s time to become less apathetic about issues that affect only women. And it’s time to grow up about periods.
Alex Friedman and Jordana Kier are the founders of LOLA, an all-natural tampon brand that offers 100% cotton tampons via a customizable subscription that gets delivered right to your door.