New York’s tampon tax discriminates against women

There is no good reason for the state of New York to charge sales tax on tampons and sanitary napkins, and no excuse for the fact that it has done so for so long. These products should be deemed medically necessary and added to the state’s tax-exempt list this year.

A movement is brewing nationally to stop such taxation. Forty states tax these feminine hygiene products, five do not and five have no sales tax on anything. Of the 40 that tax tampons, 14 have a justification for doing so: They tax almost everything, including groceries.

But New York, which collects about $14 million a year from its 4 percent levy, has no such excuse. It exempts necessities, including groceries, and practically anything that can be considered a medical item, including lip balm, foot powder, dandruff shampoo and adult and child diapers.

Five women have filed a class-action lawsuit against New York State arguing that the sales tax on tampons is unconstitutional because so many items used by both sexes are exempt. At least seven states that tax tampons are considering legislation to exempt them. Bills to do so in New York have been introduced in the Assembly and Senate, but there hasn’t yet been an organized campaign behind the effort.

Whether the tampon tax came about because feminine hygiene products were not considered a necessity or because the men who determined the categories don’t appreciate the financial burden on women who must purchase these products over four decades, it’s finally time to change.

Society often relegates the needs of women to secondary status. This law costs women money for no good reason, but the fight is not just about the money; it’s about treating women fairly.