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Tampons: That Bloody Sales Tax

A picture taken in Nantes on February 24, 2016 shows tampons. Residual amounts of potentially toxic substances were found in sanitary pads and tampons, French consumer rights group "60 Millions de Consommateurs" announced, urging the government to impose stricter control on the products. / AFP PHOTO / LOIC VENANCE (Photo credit should read LOIC VENANCE/AFP/Getty Images)
LOIC VENANCE
/
AFP/Getty Images

In 35 U.S. states, women have to pay sales tax for menstrual hygiene products. That extra cost adds up over time and it especially affects low-income women. Some people believe those taxes are unfair to women, and some states have eliminated them. Research based on New Jersey's Tampon Tax repeal in 2005 showed that tax breaks on menstrual products helped women across the board by making products cheaper and more accessible.

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The states that have nixed the Tampon Tax gave menstrual products a medical supply tax exemption, aligning them with products like condoms, dandruff shampoo, gauze and chapstick. But a lot of people argue menstrual products shouldn't be exempted, because the tax revenues they generate can help states to pay for public policies and programs.

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Stacey Vanek Smith is the co-host of NPR's The Indicator from Planet Money. She's also a correspondent for Planet Money, where she covers business and economics. In this role, Smith has followed economic stories down the muddy back roads of Oklahoma to buy 100 barrels of oil; she's traveled to Pune, India, to track down the man who pitched the country's dramatic currency devaluation to the prime minister; and she's spoken with a North Korean woman who made a small fortune smuggling artificial sweetener in from China.
Constanza Gallardo