In a previous piece, I briefly described how the passage of House Bill 19, which exempts all feminine hygiene products from sales and use taxes, would benefit both Ohio women who are incarcerated and local governments by allowing county sheriffs to purchase feminine hygiene products tax free.
Feminine hygiene products are essential to the health and well-being of women
Last week, Governor Mike DeWine signed a comprehensive tax bill that included House Bill 19, into law.
While Ohio’s tax structure has always exempted “necessities of life” from sales tax including food, prescription medication and medical supplies, bills to add feminine hygiene products to this list stalled in the legislature for the past four years, even though the Federal Drug Administration classifies tampons and pads as medical devices.
Feminine hygiene products are essential to the health and well-being of women, and making them as accessible as possible has been a public health priority around the globe for the last decade.
Most recently, Australia, Canada, India and Malaysia have all eliminated the sales tax on feminine hygiene products countrywide. Of the 45 states that have a sales tax, 11 and Washington D.C. exempt the products from that tax, some through legislation and others through ballot initiatives. Many public school districts, universities and cities have committed to providing free menstrual products in public bathrooms and shelters, including the city of Columbus.
Poor menstrual hygiene, such as not changing products as recommended, can result in serious health concerns such as toxic shock syndrome
The tax on feminine hygiene products is a unique one because it only applies to those who need the products, women. There is no similar or equivalent product for the natural bodily functions of men and thus the tax has been framed as one of discrimination and inequity.
The average woman menstruates monthly for 40 years, averaging 17,000 tampons or pads in her lifetime. Ohio’s Legislative Service Commission estimates that Ohio’s women spend $4 million in sales tax on feminine hygiene products per year.
Poor menstrual hygiene, such as not changing products as recommended, can result in serious health concerns such as toxic shock syndrome. These concerns are largely attributed to not having access to products or basic sanitation utilities.
The Ohio Poverty Report found that approximately 14 percent of all Ohioans and 10 percent of Ohio families live in poverty.
The tax on feminine hygiene products is a unique one because it only applies to those who need the products, women
While the state sales tax in Ohio is 5.75 percent, each county levies its own additional sales tax for the local government fund. In some counties such as Summit, the combined state and local sales tax is 6.75 percent. Cuyahoga County on the other hand has the highest sales tax in the state at 8 percent, meaning a woman in Cuyahoga County would pay $5.40 for a box of $5.00 tampons. This means the passage of this legislation could mean the difference between a family buying a box of tampons or sending their child to school with milk money.