Ohio, like many other states, exempts certain things like food, rent, and medicine from the sales tax because we recognize that they represent the necessities of everyday life. For women and girls, menstrual supplies are a basic necessity. In fact, the Food and Drug Administration categorizes tampons and pads as “medical supplies” and regulates their sale accordingly.
Within the last few years, there has been a growing list of states that have reconsidered the outdated and discriminatory tax of menstrual hygiene products that are set on women, girls, and people who menstruate. Lawmakers and advocates across the country have called attention to this unfair “Tampon Tax” (also known as the Pink Tax), and there has been action in a number of states and Washington, D.C. in recent years to embrace the common-sense measure of removing this tax burden from menstrual hygiene products through the legislative process or ballot initiatives.
Last week, Ohio became the eleventh state to exempt tampons, pads, and other menstrual hygiene products from the state sales tax. The elimination of the tax on menstrual hygiene products was added as an amendment to Senate Bill 26, legislation that expands tax credits for teachers on expenses for professional development or classroom supplies. The bi-partisan bill was ultimately passed out of the Ohio House and Senate with nearly unanimous support, and the governor signed the bill into law with the elimination of the “Tampon Tax” language included.
Removing this tax on menstrual hygiene products is more than simply a symbolic gesture of equity for women and girls. The societal and economic implications of removing this tax have been proven time and time again. When people have access to menstrual products, it supports their ability to attend school, go to work, play sports, and live their lives without interruption, and without compromising their health or financial security. While the added sales tax may not seem substantial from an initial glance, it complies to a considerable amount over a woman’s lifetime, particularly for those living in poverty: the average individual will spend an average of $11,000 in their lifetime on these products alone.
And because sales taxes impose the greatest burden on people who earn the least, taxing menstrual hygiene products have a disproportionate impact on low-income women and their families. Some of the poorest households in our state rely on a woman as the breadwinner. In 2015, women were the sole provider in 1 out of every 3 Ohio households living at or below the poverty level. Women already experience countless barriers when it comes to reaching their full economic potentials, such as the gender and racial wage gaps and lack of paid family leave, and this outdated taxing of menstrual hygiene products adds yet another hurdle to economic security. Removing the sales tax on menstrual hygiene products can mean the difference between purchasing enough tampons or pads that month and paying for other basic needs for themselves and their families, such as housing, food, or clothing.
Ideally, people wouldn’t have to pay to purchase menstrual supplies at all, at least in places of public accommodation where they should be provided for free alongside toilet paper and soap. However, removing this outdated and discriminatory tax is a huge step forward, and it will make a difference for women struggling to afford menstrual hygiene products each month or the girls who miss school during their periods because they don’t have access to products.
For far too long menstrual hygiene products were taxed as “luxury items” in Ohio. This is very far from the truth, and ending this tax will remove a needless financial burden and promote the health of women and girls. Menstrual hygiene products are not luxury items, and now, because of legislative action – championed by Representatives Niraj Antani (R) and Brigid Kelly (D) – they will no longer be treated or taxed as such.