Editorial: Remove menstrual product taxes


Richard B. Levine, Zuma Press | TNS

Unlike the United States as a whole, many countries have already stopped taxing menstrual products and acknowledged them as necessities.

By The Pitt News Editorial Board

Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this editorial incorrectly stated that Pennsylvania has a menstrual product tax in place. The Pitt News regrets this error.

Germany announced late last week that, starting Jan. 1, it would begin taxing tampons and other menstrual products as an essential item — like food and clothes — rather than a luxury item.

Rather than a 19% tax, menstrual products will now be taxed at only 7% — the lowest rate possible in Germany. It’s high time, too. In Germany, the essential products category also includes theater tickets, newspapers, cut flowers, paintings and collectible coins, according to The New York Times.

Lowering the tax on menstrual products wasn’t easy for people who mensturate in Germany either. It took a petition of more than 10,000 signatures, the support of men in Parliament and a lot of political lobbying. Still, Germany is more progressive than some parts of the United States. Menstrual products in the United States have a flat tax rate of 7%, and essential items — like food and prescription medications — are not taxed at all in most states. Only 15 states don’t tax menstrual products. Menstrual products are a necessity, not a choice. Taxing them as if they are a choice is inherently discriminatory and dangerous. All states should cut the tax.

Unlike the United States as a whole, many countries have already stopped taxing menstrual products and acknowledged them as necessities. Kenya was the first country to eliminate the tax in 2004 — largely because many people who mensturate could not afford to buy the products otherwise. Canada slashed the tax in 2015, and Australia, India and Malaysia subsequently dropped it in 2018.

Viagra — used for erectile dysfunction — and Rogaine — which men use for hair regrowth— are both not taxed in Pennsylvania. While these products might improve the quality of one’s life, they aren’t necessities, and the user’s health does not hinge on the availability of the product. Menstrual products are a different story. Menstruation occurs monthly without choice, and their ability to function during this time depends on whether or not they can afford pads and tampons. In the United States, impoverished people who mensturate have been known to trade food stamps for tampons and use unsanitary rags when they cannot afford menstrual products.

Blood, as it stands, is a biohazard. This means that the microorganisms and bacteria in blood put humans in the environment at risk for infection. Thus, taxing menstrual products and making them more difficult to access puts not only the woman, but everyone at risk.

“This is not a luxury,” Saint Louis University professor Anne Sebert Kuhlmann said of menstrual products. “It’s a need. It affects a woman’s sense of self, her sense of dignity and her ability to participate in life.”

Cutting the tampon tax might seem like an insignificant amount of money, but it adds up. especially when we consider that the average woman has her period for 2,535 days of her life.

But regardless, it’s the principle of taxing female hygiene necessity that should outrage us. People who menstruate have no choice but to purchase menstrual products. The tax laws should reflect that.

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