OPINION: Taxation of feminine hygiene products must stop

Trina Mclean, Contributing Writer

The North Carolina General Assembly is pushing for the legislation of an act to exempt feminine hygiene products from sales tax. The products specified in the proposal are limited to: tampons, panty liners, menstrual cups and sanitary napkins. If the bill makes it through, it will become effective Oct. 1, 2021. 

The average woman will spend approximately six years of her life menstruating, meaning a woman will pay for a box of tampons about 250 times to maintain her hygiene. A single container of tampons averages $6. If you do the math, the price for these menstruation products without tax are steep independently, not to mention the additional cost for medications, birth control and other medical needs correlated to feminine hygiene and wellness. Due to the taxation of feminine hygiene products, women living in the United States are expected to spend an additional $150 million per year. 

Some states in the U.S. have already successfully legislated the exemption of sales tax for feminine products, such as the states of Florida, Connecticut, Nevada and New Jersey. Maryland and Massachusetts have exempted feminine hygiene products from sale tax due to the consideration that they are medical products. Since prescription medications for health conditions are tax free, female menstrual products should be considered as a medical necessity for all woman and therefore should be exempted from tax as well. 

In addition to the exemption from sales tax, Maryland has recently proposed another bill to distribute free female hygiene products to women who don’t have the monetary means to attain them, specifically those living without a home, or those in lower income households. The issue of menstrual hygiene inequity has been addressed internationally at this point. Countries such as New Zealand and Scottland have even made menstrual products free to all who require them, and that should be the goal of North Carolina as well. Regardless of the financial aspect, the health risks associated with not having access to menstrual products are not to be ignored. A woman without access to these medically necessary products is at risk of developing conditions such as urinary tract infections, cervical cancer or even infertility. The legislators of North Carolina do not want to be held accountable for these medical issues, as well as the medical costs.

Although removing the sales tax from these products does not extinguish the grievances and hefty cost of dealing with the menstrual cycle, it is the first step in the right direction on relieving the financial burden for women. The states mentioned have only recently, within the past decade, removed the sales tax from feminine hygiene products, it will be interesting to see if and when the bill will be passed