Why are tampons and other feminine products taxed as a luxury item in many American states? Should they continue to be?

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One reason that tampons and other "feminine hygiene" products are subject to sales taxes in many states is that most laws have historically reflected the overwhelming political influence of males. This is not intended as a feminist indictment of men; it is, however, acknowledgement that the issue of the so-called "tampon tax" has only taken on greater urgency as women have more vigorously asserted themselves in political processes. Exemptions from state sales taxes usually reflect interpretations of what constitutes "necessities" as opposed to "luxuries." Tampons, douches, wipes and other such items are categorized as "personal hygiene" and are treated the same as antiperspirant, mouthwash, soap, toothpaste, haircare products, etc. While one can, and should, argue that toothpaste and certain other personal hygiene items are, in fact, medical necessities, as the failure to use such items does lead to health problems, but this is the fact of the situation. Certainly, deodorant and other items are not "necessities," in that their use is not vital to survival, but tampons in particular are a necessity given the natural, inevitable and often-inconvenient fact of life that is menstruation. Concern about the inevitability of menstruation, however, has historically been unique to the only gender that must endure this monthly condition. Because women were marginalized politically for so many decades, and continue to be underrepresented relative to their proportion of the nation's population, it has taken this long for the issue of the "tampon tax" to be addressed.

Tampons should not be subject to the luxury tax. They are a necessity. It's been a while since the 1989 decision by the Supreme Court for the State of Illinois in Geary v. Dominick's Finer Foods, in which that state's highest court arrived at the following conclusion with regard to the need for tampons by those who use them:

"Clearly tampons and sanitary napkins are necessities of life for a vast number of post-pubescent women. These products are virtually the only ones available to and used by women during menstruation. No reasonable alternative product exists."

This 1989 decision represented an important legal victory for women, but the fact that women continue to have to agitate politically over an issue of such sensitivity illuminates the distance yet to go.

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To first clarify the idea of taxing tampons, it is important to note that the 'United States' does not tax feminine products. That is because the federal government does not impose a sales tax. The states within the United States may or not tax feminine products if they have a sales tax. Three states do not have a sales tax, so obviously they do not tax women for their menstrual cycle. Of the states that have a sales tax, some have exempted tampons, but many have not.

The reason that tampons are not tax exempt varies widely from state to state. Each state government decides its own laws for sales taxation. The motive for taxing feminine products has very little to do with punishing women for something biological and it really is not an issue of gender politics. In most states, only food is exempt from the sales tax. Because you cannot eat tampons (or, at least, you shouldn't) they are not exempt from taxation. So while women certainly do need to purchase the product, many products that only men buy are taxed in the same way. Examples would include razors, men's deodorant, and condoms.

The issue of whether tampons should continue to be taxed is opinion based. Hopefully, I have given you enough information to make an informed opinion.

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