August 23rd 2016
What’s the price of periods? The tampon tax debate
October 30th 2015
Periods are taxing enough as it is without having to pay tax for them
Despite a petition to stop the taxing of sanitary products garnering over 260,000 signatures, British MPs have voted against a move to compel the government to remove the tax.
Under current EU law, menstrual hygiene products including tampons, sanitary pads and mooncups are subject to a 5% tax, because they are classed as a non-essential item.
While helicopters, edible sugar flowers and crocodile steaks are not subject to this tax, all products related to menstrual health are classed as a ‘luxury’ item under current regulations.
Laura Croyton, who started the petition to end the tampon tax, argues that they should be reclassified as essential "because without them, those who menstruate would have no way of pursuing a normal, flexible, public or private life and would be at risk of jeopardising their health."
Let’s do some menstruation maths.
The average period lasts 5 days, but can be anything from 2-7 days. With an average menstrual cycle lasting 28 days this means that for at least 60 days of the year, people who menstruate must purchase and wear protective items such as pads or tampons.
The average age menstruation starts is 12, while menopause begins around 50. 38 years of menstruating is 2,280 days where one person will require sanitary ware in order to remain clean and safe during their period. If they use 5 tampons a day that’s 11,400 over the course of a lifetime.
All this is a conservative estimate of course, not taking into account variation in flow or the purchase of extras such as pads to wear at night or more tampons to take into account activities such as swimming.
If a pack of 20 regular branded tampons currently costs £2.90, that’s 11,400 / 20 x £2.90 = £1,653. Over £80 of this is tax. On the UK minimum wage of £6.70 an hour, that’s 247 hours or over 30 working days to earn enough for a lifetime of sanitary ware. The Bloody Disgrace campaign website has a nifty feature where you can work out what you could have bought with all that money you spend on the 'luxury' of a period.
Yet despite the obvious necessity of menstrual hygiene products, the motion to move forward with abolishing the tax failed with 308 votes against and 287 for. Currently of the 650 members of parliament, 459 are men. That’s 70% of MPs who will never experience the financial burden of menstruating.
After the vote, Women’s Minister Nicki Morgan said: “It's blindingly obvious that sanitary products aren't a luxury and shouldn't be treated as such. We will push Europe to change this classification."
In response to the vote, organic sanitary protection brand Organyc are reducing the cost of their products by 5% throughout the month of November to show their support for the abolishment of the tax.
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