Tuesday, September 5, 2023
On Friday, a bipartisan Texas bill that eliminates sales taxes on menstrual products went into effect, making it the 24th state in the country, as well as District of Columbia, to remove what is colloquially known as the “tampon tax.”
Before the shift, Texas had classified period products, including pads, tampons, menstrual cups, discs and sponges, as optional or luxury items and applied a 6.25 percent tax. Opponents of the tampon tax have long claimed that because other items — like contact lenses and over-the-counter medications in most states — are categorized as necessary and therefore sold tax-free, the tax on period products is discriminatory against those who menstruate.
“Every woman knows that these products are not optional,” Republican State Senator Joan Huffman, who spearheaded the bill in the Senate, said in a statement. “They are essential to our health and well-being and should be tax exempt.”
The new law also eliminates taxes on adult and children’s diapers, baby wipes, bottles, maternity clothes and breast pumps. Sales taxes on period products, which can cost up to $20 every month, vary by state but they range from 4 to roughly 7 percent.
Dropping the tampon tax is part of a broader effort by student activists and lawmakers to make these products more accessible, echoing efforts in other countries, like Scotland, where period products are available for free. In the United States, 26 states and the District of Columbia have laws to offer free menstrual products in schools, and 25 states have laws to provide them in prisons. A new law introduced in Congress this year, the Menstrual Equity for All Act, proposes mandating Medicaid coverage of period products.
There are 21 states in which menstrual products are taxed, while other products, like Viagra, candies and condoms, are generally not, Ms. Herman said. (The remaining five states don’t have sales taxes on anything.)
The first state in the country to drop the tampon tax was Minnesota in 1981, but the issue had been “largely ignored” elsewhere for decades, said Laura Strausfeld, founder and executive director of Period Law.