Outdated tampon tax must be eliminated

States nationwide offer tax exemptions for items that are deemed essentials. However, one item is not exempt that might cause about 50 percent of the population an undue financial burden. 

Tampons, and other forms of menstrual protection, are treated as nonessential items and are taxed in 40 states, according to a June 3, 2015, article from Fusion.com.

Legislation introduced in Utah, California, New York and Virginia has sparked a national  conversation and movement toward abolishing what has been called the tampon tax, according a Jan. 29 article from CNN Money.

Even President Barack Obama seemed shocked to learn that these items are not exempt from state taxes during a Jan. 16 interview with Ingrid Nilsen, a YouTube star who makes lifestyle and beauty videos.

“I have no idea why states would tax these as luxury items. I think it is pretty sensible for women to work to get those taxes removed,” Obama said. 

While most people who discover the reality of the tampon tax share Obama’s view, others do not see it as a problem and some claim to see it as a hoax. 

In a Jan. 25 piece from The Washington Post, opinion writer Catherine Rampell said the name “tampon tax” is misleading because there is no tampon-specific tax-—tampons and other feminine hygiene products just happen to be lumped in with all the other items that are not exempt from state taxes.

According to the CNN Money article, it could be difficult to exempt these items because state sales taxes and the exemptions that are given are inconsistent and states get a lot of revenue from taxes like those on feminine hygiene products. 

While states do get revenue from taxes on feminine hygiene products, by exempting these items they may not lose out on that revenue completely. If people are not spending that extra money on these products every month, they will likely spend it elsewhere, probably on items taxed by the state.  

Some have tried to draw the comparison between condoms and feminine hygiene products, but that comparison is irrelevant in this argument. Condoms are available for free through organizations like Planned Parenthood and schools. Not only can you get condoms for free, but they are nonessential items. People do not have to have sex, but there is nothing women can do about a bodily function like a period.

The fact that these items are not exempt from taxes or considered essential items could be a simple oversight or targeted gender discrimination, but either way it causes an unfair burden on people who get periods. It is arguably unfair that people have to pay for these products at all so the least that can be done is treating these items as essentials in the eyes of state sales tax. 

These items are subject to state taxes, which means that it is up to each state to decide if they are going to make these products exempt. Issues like gay marriage and marijuana legalization have seen changes catch on in one state and move throughout the country. Hopefully if legislation passes in Utah, California, New York and Virginia, there will be a push for similar legislation in other states.