Tampons and sanitary pads are medically essential items – not luxury goods – and imposing a sales tax on them is unconstitutional, according to a lawsuit filed in the Ohio Court of Claims.
“It is a vestige of another era, and now is the time to end it,” said the 15-page complaint filed on behalf of four female plaintiffs from Cuyahoga County.
Ohio does not tax most medical items but menstrual sanitary products – tampons and pads – are subject to the state sales tax of 5.4 percent. “It is undisputable that tampons and pads serve multiple medical purposes. They are not luxury items, but a necessity for women’s health,” the complaint said.
The lawsuit calculates that 3 million Ohio women spend at least $70 a year on tampons and pads, netting Ohio about $11 million in sales tax revenues. Plaintiffs want to end the tampon tax and award at least $11 million in damages to Ohio women.
State Reps. Greta Johnson and Emlia Sykes, both Akron Democrats who are sponsoring legislation to end the tampon tax, cheered the lawsuit.
“We are pleased to see action being taken against discriminatory laws that disproportionately single out women at cash registers all across the state. This sales tax on essential products – that help prevent diseases and health complications – only affects women, instituting yet another unfair economic barrier to full equality. At a time when Ohio women are fighting for equal pay, job opportunities and access to quality health care, we need to strike down and get rid of systemic economic inequalities that put females at a disadvantage from the day they are born in Ohio,” they said in a joint written statement.
In January, President Obama told YouTube personality Ingrid Nilsen: “I have to tell you, I have no idea why states would tax these as luxury items. I suspect it’s because men were making the laws when those taxes were passed.”
There has been a campaign across the U.S. and in other countries to end taxes on tampons. While some see it as a feminist issue, others see it as overblown.