MD-Candidate at the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Medicine and President of Kansas City, MO “Period” Chapter Divya Jain underscores the importance of repealing the tampon tax in Missouri.
Missouri women who require sanitary products are being discriminated against on the basis of sex — by those who believe talking about periods is a "party foul."
Menstruators are required to pay a luxury tax on menstrual hygiene products. That’s right. Menstrual products such as tampons, pads, cups, and panty liners are viewed as nonessential items according to Missouri politicians. These luxury items are taxed from 8.6% to 9.6% in Missouri: at the same rate of a luxury car.
Many women have claimed this luxury tax to be discriminatory on the basis of gender equity. On average, a pre-menopausal person menstruates once per month for 40 years. This means women pay upwards of $7 a month for tampons, pads, panty liners, and other supplies for 40 years. That amounts to a cost of $3,360 over a woman’s lifetime. And if you live in St. Louis, Mo., that’s an extra $322.56 just in taxes on those menstrual items. Not to mention: this estimated cost doesn’t include all of the other items that women pay for, such as the cost of new underwear, heating pads, and pain relief medication.
For some menstruators this may not pose a pressing problem in their daily lives, but women who are living at or below the poverty line take the biggest hit. American programs designed to help low-income families, including Medicaid, SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, i.e. food stamps) and WIC (Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children) exclude menstrual products, even though the FDA considers them medical products. This is why we must repeal the tax on menstrual products in Missouri.
Exemptions to taxes exist in order to make essential products for day-to-day living such as prescription medication and food more affordable. However, menstrual products continue to lack presence on this list, while items mostly used by men – such as Viagra and Rogaine – are exempt from sales taxes completely.
The tampon tax is not only an economic problem but truly a public health concern. Those who are unable to afford menstrual products may use unhygienic alternative methods such as socks or plastic bags. By choosing these unsanitary methods, they are potentially compromising their safety and are more at risk for developing life-threatening infections and diseases, such as toxic-shock syndrome.
As a budding physician, my training in the Kansas City area hospitals has encouraged me to develop an open ear for the challenges that arise outside of the 20-minute appointments in the hospital. Women who cannot afford their medications for their chronic illnesses, struggle to keep the lights on, and rely on food stamps to feed their family are the most at-risk for being affected by period poverty.
We must continue to be advocates for those who are discriminated against for their own biology. We must repeal the tampon tax in Missouri.