Friday, October 21, 2016

Feminine hygiene products taxed under "Tampon Tax"

Juliana Discher | Staff Writer
Women can purchase lip balm, breath mints, dandruff shampoo free of sales tax, but not pads or tampons.
The “tampon tax” or “pink tax” is the name given to the sales tax on feminine hygiene products. Tampons and pads are not given an additional tax, but they do not fall under the medically exempt tax bracket like products such as throat lozenges and medicated lotions. Ohio still currently has the “tampon tax,” but House Bill 272 sponsored by Representative Greta Johnson is attempting to repeal it.
Johnson said that menstruation should not be a taboo topic in society and that repealing the tax is a step in reinforcing that periods are a regular body function for women.
“This is an issue women deal with every single month of most of their adult life,” Johnson said. “It’s not a shameful condition. If you’re out with your friends and need a breath mint because your breath is foul, Tic Tac mints are tax free. If you’re out with your friends and need a tampon, it’s a whole different problem and those tampons are taxed. We are talking about putting money back into the pockets of women and families; that impacts the bottom line for everyone.”
House Bill 272 was first introduced in June 2015. Johnson said it is unlikely that Ohio’s legislatures will pass the bill in 2016. The sales tax has been repealed in 11 states so far, and a lawsuit was filed in Cleveland during March 2016 claiming the tax is unconstitutional.
“No Republicans have joined as co-sponsors of the bill and without that, it will be very difficult to get it to move,” Johnson said. “It’s unfortunate because it has passed unanimously in New York, California, and Indiana in a very bipartisan manner. I’m hopeful that the lawsuit is successful because if the court finds it unconstitutional, the legislature will have no choice but to act.”
Johnson said that although the sales tax seems like a few pennies per purchase, it makes a difference in the long run.
“I think there are people who look at this as silly or not going to make a difference,” Johnson said. “When you start talking to women who make $0.77 on the dollar and they have their period for 30 years of their lives, those are real numbers that start to make a big difference when you add them up. Most men in the legislature are white men who are making the full strength of the dollar, so they probably have never thought of the impact.”
Representative Paul Zeltwanger of District 54, the district to which Mason belongs, said he understands the logic behind the tax repeal, but believes before the bill can be passed, the government needs to cut their spending in some area in order to compensate for the money lost from the tax.
“I understand the rationale behind why they’re proposing House Bill 272,” Zeltwanger said. “We need to be careful when it gets to defining things as a necessity – diapers for example have sales tax. The government does need to provide necessary services like road management, infrastructure, emergency services and there needs to be tax revenue to support those. In order for me to be even more in support, it would be nice to have a corresponding reduction in spending to show some financial discipline around that – that way it helps support the reduction in taxes.”
A woman’s period will cost an average of $18,171 over her lifetime, said the Huffington Post. This cost is compiled of charges for birth control, tampons, and chocolate, among other needs. The Huffington Post also reported that the average woman endures around 456 total periods over 38 years, meaning 2,280 days with her period or 6.25 years of her life.
Junior Mallika Madugula said she finds the sales tax ridiculous, especially given the already high price of feminine hygiene products.
“There should be cheaper options for women,” Madugula said. “I understand businesses and the state want to make a profit, but we should look ahead of money and focus on the issue at hand, which is that women are spending way too much money on a necessity.”
Brown University is offering free tampons and sanitary pads to its students for the 2016-17 school year. Brown wanted to help promote tampons and pads as not a luxury item, but as much of a bathroom necessity as toilet paper or hand soap. Madugula said she believes Mason should follow suit in providing free feminine hygiene products in restrooms.
“The school should offer free pads and tampons to students,” Madugula said. “The nurses offer a free one, but how do you make it to the nurse’s office? It would be good to have a backup provided by the school in case you forget.”
Currently, Mason has pad and tampon dispensers in their restrooms at a price of $0.25 each. On a college level, health teacher Gary Popovich compared the situation to some universities giving out free condoms.
“Certain colleges have health care clinics that give out free condoms,” Popovich said. “What the heck, if they’re giving out free condoms, why can’t they give out free tampons and pads?”
Popovich said he believes states are holding back on passing the law to repeal the sales tax because of the profit they earn from it.
“It’s going to cost them millions of dollars over time,” Popovich said. “I like that people are looking into the law and where their money is going. Taking leadership by writing letters, raising awareness, and making phone calls will get the support for the repeal.”
Sophomore Mitchell Bilo said that the tax should not be repealed in order to continue the money inflow for the government.
“I think it’s over exaggerated because it’s not that big of a difference for a woman, so there is no need to make a fuss,” Bilo said. “Our government is so far in financial debt so women are helping the cause through the tax.”
Sophomore Olive Guess said reducing the stigma of menstruation is a part of the reason why the bill is necessary.
“Every part of me feels this tax is unnecessary,” Guess said. “It’s not a luxury; it’s a necessity. Hopefully repealing this tax will reduce some of the stigma and open people’s eyes that menstruation is a part of life for women.”
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