There are few things I hate more than spending my money on boring stuff. $100 at Sephora? Awesome! $30 on Scrubbing Bubbles, Windex, and paper towels? ULTIMATE RAGE. And dropping cash on feminine hygiene products irritates me like nothing else.
In general, menstruation is its own punishment. Cramps, bloating, headaches, and fatigue come along with my monthly cycle. But North Carolina lawmakers add insult to injury by taxing the tampons and pads we need to make it through the 3-7 most annoying days each month.
40 states tax women’s sanitary supplies as luxury items, including North Carolina. Our state sales tax rate is 4.75%, and local taxes can add 2%-3% on top of that. Let’s do some math:
- A box of 40 tampons costs $10 — and this is for just regular tampons, not unbleached, organic cotton tampons (which are recommended since regular tampons can leek pesticides and chlorine into your bloodstream via your vagina)
- The average woman uses 20 tampons a cycle, or 240 tampons a year
- That’s 6 boxes of tampons a year at a cost of $60 plus $4.20 in sales tax
- Over the course of 35 fertile years a woman spends at least $2,100 on tampons and $147 just on hygiene product taxes
$2,300 is a lot of money, and those calculations didn’t even account for inflation. I’m sitting here picturing all the neat things I could do with $2300 if I wasn’t so busy menstruating. First on that list? A round-trip ticket to Phuket with a week’s worth of lodgings, massages, and food.
There is a growing movement that believes that tampons and pads shouldn’t only be tax-free; they should be free in general. Proponents of this place sanitary supplies in the same category as toilet paper: Something everyone in the bathroom needs to have a happy and hygienic experience.
And they may have a point. Is it sexist to stock paper towels and toilet paper in public restrooms while charging 50 cents for a substandard cardboard tube stuffed full of cotton? Even worse, until recently FEMA funds were not allowed to be used to purchase pads and tampons for needy women.
Homeless shelters and domestic violence shelters frequently run out of these items. Homeless women report using rags because they can’t afford the $5 for a box of pads to get them through their cycle. Tampons in public restrooms would go a long way toward making these women more comfortable. A Wisconsin bill — introduced by a woman, natch — would make pads and tampons available for free in all state government buildings, including schools.
Right now 11 states don’t tax sanitary products, and there are five more bills being considered to end sales tax in other states. North Carolina is not among them.
What do you think? Should tampons be free? Should they be taxed just like non-essential items like lipstick and chewing gum? Should they be allowed to be purchased with medical Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs)? If you ruled the world, would you make it rain OBs?