California residents no longer have to pay luxury taxes on menstrual products for at least the next two years. The law went into effect on Jan 1. 2020 after Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill 92 to eliminate the tax known as the “tampon tax” in June.
Menstrual health advocates applauded California for taking a step in the right direction, but are now urging leaders to pass a permanent law.
The list of items now exempt from sales and use taxes include: “diapers for infants, toddlers, and children, and menstrual hygiene products, defined as tampons, specified sanitary napkins, menstrual sponges, and menstrual cups.”
“It's a mixed bag, of course, because they've not been successful getting legislation over the finish line, and so it's great that the governor pushed this into the budget,” Jennifer Weiss-Wolf, vice president of the Brennan Center for Justice and founder of the organization Period Equity, told Global Citizen.
“Dec. 31, 2021, we're back to the drawing board — after that, it's not a given to get the budget again. So California is good, but it's not a victory.”
Assemblywomen Lorena Gonzalez and Cristina Garcia, who worked on Senate Bill 92, tried to get the legislation passed for several years without much success until Newsom pushed it through in June. California estimated that eliminating the sales tax on period products would cost about $20 million a year.
“My response to the cost of it is: ‘Yes, as a society we're willing to shoulder that cost,’” Weiss-Wolf said.
The state has been a leader in menstrual equity, according to Weiss-Wolf. California provides free period products in public schools and Los Angeles is considering a plan to make them available in public restrooms.
Period Equity advocates for the most comprehensive legislation to ensure access to period products. Since the organization launched in 2015, 32 states have introduced measures to eliminate the period tax, but only eight states have been successful –– Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Ohio, Nevada, New York, Rhode Island, and Utah.
While advocates say the tampon tax isn’t the only way to achieve menstrual equity — breaking taboos, education, and safe sanitation are also key factors — legislation that removes the financial barrier is an important start.
“California really is trying to do the right thing here and you know, I’ll give them credit for fighting a backdoor way to getting the process started on the tampon tax,” Weiss-Wolf said, “but by no means have they finished … I would love for them to keep going.”