What is the Tampon Tax?

The tampon tax is an additional cost placed on feminine hygiene products like sanitary napkins and tampons because the government deems them as non-essential, luxury items. Compare this to other healthcare products that are considered “essential” such as toilet paper, condoms, and in most states, erectile dysfunction pills. The tampon tax has been nicknamed a “pink tax,” which describes a form of gender-based discrimination whereby women have to pay more for feminine hygiene products.  


Key Takeaways

  • The tampon tax is a tax on menstrual products because the government classifies them as luxury goods. 
  • The additional cost of tampons adds up and creates a barrier for women to access menstrual products.  
  • Organizations such as Period Equity and LOLA are speaking up and fighting to make menstrual products more affordable. 


What Is The Tampon Tax

Why does a tampon tax exist?


Menstrual products are considered “tangible individual property” since they’re being used as a major source of income for each state. In 2016, five women filed a lawsuit against the tax in New York. During this case, Ilann Maazel, the lawyer representing these women, estimated that the revenue loss would be around $14 million a year if the tax were discontinued. Similarly, in California, the government estimated that dropping the tampon tax and tax on diapers would eliminate around $55 million in revenue.  

Which states impose the tampon tax?

Today, 30 U.S. states still charge a tampon tax. States that do not have the tax include California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah, and Washington. 

It’s worth noting that four of these states do not have any sales tax. In the last few years, other countries worldwide that have gotten rid of the tampon tax include Canada, India, Australia, and Kenya.

What are the cost effects of the tampon tax?

The average woman in the U.S. experiences 450 periods and pays between $100 to $225 in tampon taxes over her lifetime. Women in the U.S. are estimated to spend an additional $150 million per year on menstrual products. Federal assistance programs such as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and Women Infants and Children do not allow the use of their funds for products like pads or tampons. Around the world, 12.8% of women and girls live in poverty and struggle to access the resources to manage their periods. According to a study done by Always, the brand of the menstrual product, one out of every five girls in the U.S. has missed school entirely or left early because they can’t access menstrual products. 

The War on Tampon Tax

In October 2015, the first U.S. nationwide petition was posted by Period Equity co-founder Jennifer Weiss-Wolf in partnership with Cosmopolitan magazine. Period Equity is a national law and policy advocacy group dedicated to ensuring accessible, affordable, and safe menstrual products. 

In 2016, President Obama spoke out against the tampon tax, saying, “I have to tell you, I have no idea why states would tax these. I suspect it is because men were making the laws when those taxes were passed.” 

In June 2019, Period Equity collaborated with LOLA, a women-led period and sexual wellness brand, for a campaign called “Tax Free. Period.”. These groups are raising awareness for the state laws that are in place. The goal was to ensure the end of all period taxes by Tax day 2021. Although the period tax has not been banned in all states, the movement to repeal the tax has been gaining steam. 

During the Covid-19 pandemic, the federal government passed a CARES act that included a provision for menstrual products, which allowed people to use pre-tax dollars to buy tampons, pads, liners, and cups. In addition to ending the period tax, menstrual equity advocates also warn that in order to end period poverty, education, adequate water, and sanitation facilities, and addressing harmful gender norms are of paramount importance


Outside the Huddle

Reviewed by Geetika Rao, MPH | Edited by Jared Dashevsky (ME)