After struggling over my Human Event essay and staying up late finishing it, I walked into my local CVS this past weekend in search of three specific items essential to my well-being in college: thin mint Oreo cookies, a bottle of Sprite and maxi pads.
As I bent down to pick up the lovely bundle of joy that would epitomize the bane of my existence for the next few days, I looked at the price and mentally sighed. Another $7.19 gone from my bank account.
Biologically, women who are so fortunate to experience periods have no choice but to suffer the cramps, discomfort, breakouts and bloating that accompany every menstrual cycle and are forced to purchase pads and tampons to ease the messy experiences. Given that it happens so often, buying pads, tampons and other feminine hygiene products puts a dent in our checking accounts over time — especially if you're a broke college student.
Women have to buy these products — they are a necessity. Unfortunately, they are also not exempt from the sales tax, they are categorized as a "luxury item," meaning they have to pay even more for a product that they have no choice but to buy.
Under most states’ tax codes, there are exemptions made for certain “necessary items.” For example, in Arizona, groceries, including candy and soda, prescription drugs and even condoms are items that are exempt from the sales tax.
Unfortunately, many states do not consider tampons and other feminine hygiene products a “necessity,” and they are also not classified as a medical purchase — which are sales tax exempt.
In other words, the Oreo cookies and the bottle of Sprite I bought that day were not taxed, but the pads I acquired were.
It doesn’t seem to make logical sense that I paid extra for my pads but not my junk food. I am not saying that we shouldn’t have tax exemptions for food; I am thrilled that I do not have to pay an extra 8.6 percent on my Oreos and soda. However, I would prefer not to pay extra for my pads and tampons, either.
Not only do state legislatures seem to think that feminine hygiene products are not “necessary,” some college campuses reflect similar rationale. On ASU campuses, women do not have the easy access to pads and tampons.
“Health Services offers a number of services to women for their healthcare needs," said Christiana Moore, associate director of ASU Health Services. "While we currently do not have tampons and pads for distribution to students, Health Services has condoms that are available and free to students.
“Our providers work with students to locate the closest convenience store or pharmacy near their place of residence for the purchase of additional hygienic or over-the-counter products. Condoms can be obtained at the health center on all campus locations.”
It appears discriminatory against female students that condoms are readily available, but feminine hygiene products are not. Not to say that I am against safe sex, but it is illogical that condoms, a product which is not essential to all students, are freely distributed, while pads and tampons, items that are essential to all female students, are not treated the same way.
At present, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Maryland and New Jersey specifically do not tax tampons and pads; in addition, New Hampshire, Alaska, Montana, Delaware and Oregon do not have sales taxes at all. Other states, including California, Virginia, Michigan and Utah have all made steps toward introducing legislation to end the “tampon tax.”
We need to take similar steps in Arizona to make tampons and other feminine hygiene products exempt from the sales tax to ease financial burdens for women. It is not a luxury to be on my period, and paying extra on a product meant to ease my experience isn't any better. Making it more affordable and accessible in stores and on campuses will help improve women’s healthcare all around the state and nation.
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