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Nevada just got rid of its “tampon tax”

Advocates argued that the sales tax on tampons and pads was unfair to women.

Tampax brand tampons on a drugstore shelf in New York on Wednesday, February 10, 2016
Tampax brand tampons on a drugstore shelf in New York on Wednesday, February 10, 2016.
Richard Levine/Corbis/Getty Images
Anna North is a senior correspondent for Vox, where she covers American family life, work, and education. Previously, she was an editor and writer at the New York Times. She is also the author of three novels, including the New York Times bestseller Outlawed.

Nevada just became the 10th state to eliminate the so-called “tampon tax,” making menstrual products exempt from state sales taxes.

Voters on Tuesday approved State Question No. 2, meaning Nevada consumers will be able to buy sanitary pads and tampons without paying the state’s 6.85 percent sales tax. Supporters of the measure, proposed by Democratic state Sens. Yvanna Cancela and Joyce Woodhouse, argued that taxing the products placed an unfair financial burden on women. The Food and Drug Administration regulates tampons as medical devices; other medical devices, like bandages and prosthetics, are exempt from Nevada sales tax.

The Nevada measure is part of a larger movement around the country to promote “menstrual equity,” ensuring that everyone who menstruates has access to the products they need. Advocates say lack of access to these products can force people to miss school or work, or even contribute to health problems if they use unsanitary alternatives.

“In order to have a fully impartial and participatory society, laws and policies must ensure that menstrual products are safe, affordable, and available to those who need them,” Jennifer Weiss-Wolf and Maeve Roughton wrote in an op-ed at the New York Daily News earlier this year. Nevada just moved a step closer to that ideal.

Menstrual equity advocates say tampon taxes are an issue of fairness — and health

Eliminating the sales tax for tampons and pads will cost Nevada between $4.96 million and $7.11 million a year in revenue, as Jana Kasperkevic reports at Marketplace. Opponents of Question 2 pointed out that the state would have to make up that lost revenue somewhere.

But supporters of repealing tampon taxes nationwide have argued that taxing the products unfairly burdens women, who are already at a financial disadvantage due to the gender wage gap.

“Feminine hygiene products are primarily bought for women and the sales tax on what are medically necessary devices disproportionately affects women,” Cancela told Marketplace. “And I think removing a tax like that from our tax code is important in moving towards equality.”

For advocates, getting rid of the tax isn’t just about fairness. Lack of access to clean tampons and pads can actually lead to infections if women use unsanitary products instead, as Weiss-Wolf, a longtime menstrual equity advocate, noted at Time in 2015. Homeless or incarcerated women are especially at risk of lack of access. Meanwhile, girls who can’t get tampons or pads sometimes miss school during their periods, putting them academically behind their peers.

Nine other states, including New York, Minnesota, and Illinois, have already eliminated sales tax on tampons. New York City has gone further, providing free tampons in schools, jails, and homeless shelters. Earlier this year, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that the state would begin offering the products free in public school restrooms.

“Menstrual products are as necessary as toilet paper and soap, but can be one expense too many for struggling families,” Cuomo tweeted in April. For Nevada families, that expense will soon be a bit lower.