The so-called “tampon tax” took another hit this week as Florida joined the growing number of states looking to end what one lawmaker has dubbed a “gender inequality.”
On Thursday, Florida’s Republican Gov. Rick Scott signed into law a tax relief package that included a provision that will end the state’s sales tax on feminine hygiene products in January. The push to end states’ tampon taxes surged into the national consciousness in 2015 and 2016, earning the title of “viral legislation” among reporters, but the media hubbub over the movement has largely died down in the wake of the Donald Trump presidency.
Nevertheless, lawmakers have persisted in their efforts to end the tampon tax. So far in the 2017 legislative session, lawmakers in California, Michigan, Arizona, Colorado, Texas, Virginia, and Washington state have all proposed bills to end their state’s tampon taxes.
The “tampon tax,” for the uninitiated, is the term for sales taxes on period-related products like tampons, pads, and menstrual cups. Five states lack sales tax entirely, but in the states that do, certain items — such as groceries and medications — are exempt because they’re considered “necessities,” according to the conservative-leaning Tax Foundation. However, in all but eight of the states that do use sales tax, feminine hygiene products are not considered necessities, but categorized as “luxuries,” and are taxed as such.
For decades, this tax went largely overlooked; before 2005, only five states had moved to end it. But critics of the tampon tax now argue that it financially penalizes women, as they can’t just refuse to menstruate.
“Basically we are being taxed for being women,” California state assemblymember Cristina Garcia said in a statement last year when she announced a bill to end her state’s tampon tax. “This is a step in the right direction to fix this gender injustice. Women have no choice but to buy these products, so the economic effect is only felt by woman [sic] and women of color are particularly hard hit by this tax. You can’t just ignore your period.”
Garcia also pointed out that in California, as in several other states, erectile dysfunction drugs like Viagra are not taxed. While Democratic California Gov. Jerry Brown ultimately vetoed Garcia’s bill after it passed the legislature, citing budget concerns, Garcia reintroduced it this year.
Self-described “menstrual equity” activist Jennifer Weiss-Wolf, of the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University, told Time that 14 states and three major American cities sought to end the tax in 2016. Illinois, New York, Connecticut, and the District of Columbia all succeeded. The movement has also gone international: that same year, Canada eliminated its tampon tax.