Nevada lifted its tampon tax after voters approved a ballot measure on Tuesday, making it easier for women to access essential menstrual resources. Now residents will be able to buy tampons and menstrual pads without paying the extra 6.85% sales tax, Vox reports.
"Feminine hygiene products should be treated like other medical products that are exempt from Nevada’s sales and use taxes, such as splints, bandages, and prosthetic devices,” wrote Barbara K. Cegavske, Nevada’s secretary of state, in a summary of the amendment. “This is consistent with the US Food and Drug Administration’s classification of tampons as a type of medical product.”
The “tampon tax” refers to the sales tax that’s added to the cost of menstrual products. In most states, sales taxes are reserved for luxury items such as electronics, jewelry, and cigarettes. Groceries, food stamp purchases, and medical items are some of the items that are typically excluded from the tax. In most states throughout the US, menstrual products are taxed because they are considered to be luxury items — despite being essential for women’s health.
Tampons are categorized differently by the Food and Drug Administration, which considers them to be a medical device, yet many states refuse to acknowledge this distinction. At the same time, Viagra, ChapStick, and candy are exempt from sales taxes.
The tampon tax is especially hard on women living in poverty, homeless women, incarcerated women, and women of color. Approximately 42 million women in the United States lived in or close to poverty in 2014, according to the Shriver report. Programs like SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), WIC (a nutrition program for Women, Infants, and Children), and Medicaid do not cover menstrual products, according to Harper’s Bazaar. SNAP and WIC recognize these products as luxuries in the same category as cigarettes, dog food, and alcohol.
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Women who are required to pay the tampon tax are already at an economic disadvantage because of the wage gap. White women make 79 cents to every dollar that a white man makes. For women of color, the gap is even larger. African Americans make 63 cents for every dollar a white man makes, Native American women make 57 cents, and Latina women make 54 cents per dollar.
Limited access to menstrual products can force women to stay home from school or work, which can disadvantage women academically and economically.
When women can’t afford tampons or menstrual pads, they often turn to cheaper alternatives that put them at risk for infection, according to Time.
“Feminine hygiene is not a choice and should not be taxed,” said Ling Ling Chang, a member of the California State Senate who is working on a similar proposal in her state, calling the tax a way of “regulatory discrimination.”
Nevada is now the 10th state to get rid of the tampon tax. States such as New York go further by providing free tampons in jails, schools, and homeless shelters.
Read More: New York will stop taxing tampons like luxury items
“Menstrual products are as necessary as toilet paper and soap but can be one expense too many for struggling families,” tweeted New York Gov Andrew Cuomo.
Other countries have eliminated tampon taxes this year, including South Africa, Australia, Malaysia, and India, after recognizing that access to menstrual health is a matter of gender equality and human rights.
“In order to have a fully impartial and participatory society, laws and policies must ensure that menstrual products are safe, affordable, and available to those who need them,” the activists Jennifer Weiss-Wolf and Maeve wrote.