- CVS Health is reducing the cost of its store brand period products by 25%.
- As of October 5, the company also began paying sales tax for menstrual products on customers’ behalf in 12 states, most of which currently have a “tampon tax.”
- In the U.S. today, one in four people struggle to afford menstrual products. Advocates stress that making them accessible and affordable is key to ending period poverty.
CVS Health is cutting the costs of its menstrual products – and working to eliminate the “tampon tax” in some states.
The pharmacy chain announced this week that it has reduced the cost of CVS Health brand tampons, menstrual pads, liners and cups by 25%. In an email to USA TODAY on Thursday, a representative for CVS Health confirmed that this will apply to all CVS Pharmacy locations nationwide.
CVS Health brand period products sold at retail price will be eligible for the cost reduction – promotions or sales items are not included, the company noted.
“Women have long faced systemic barriers on their path to better health – from access to affordability to stigma,” Michelle Peluso, EVP and chief customer officer for CVS Health and co-president for CVS Pharmacy, said in a statement sent to USA TODAY. “We hope our actions help break down barriers and close gaps, while also inspiring other companies to follow our lead.”
As of Oct. 5, the company also began paying applicable sales tax for menstrual products on customers’ behalf in 12 states, most of which currently have a “tampon tax”: Arkansas, Georgia, Hawaii, Louisiana, Missouri, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Wisconsin and West Virginia.
According to advocacy nonprofit Alliance for Period Supplies, Louisiana passed legislation to eliminate its tax on period products in June 2021 – and the bill went into effect in July 2022. Similar legislation was recently passed in Virginia, where the tax exemption is set to begin this coming January.
Still, there are 22 U.S. states that tax menstrual products – often as “nonessential” or luxury goods – and/or don’t have legislation in place set to eliminate the “tampon tax” as of September, Alliance for Period Supplies reports.
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“We applaud the announcement by CVS to reduce prices on period supplies and pay the ‘tampon tax’ in states where it can do so,” Joanne Samuel Goldblum, CEO of National Diaper Bank Network and Alliance for Period Supplies, said in a statement sent to USA TODAY Thursday.
“At the Alliance for Period Supplies we focus on ending period poverty in the U.S.,” Goldblum added. “Eliminating sales taxes on period products is a step in the right direction and we are actively advocating for legislation to end the tampon tax in the 22 states (that) continue to impose sales tax on the basic necessities that people need to thrive.”
CVS was unable to pay sales tax for menstrual products in all the states that tax them because of laws in 13 states that prohibit organizations from covering a product’s tax, a CVS Health representative told USA TODAY – adding that the company is working through operation steps to hopefully cover the tax in Arizona, another state where period supplies are currently taxed, one day.
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Especially in recent years, more and more have worked towards eradicating the “tampon tax.” Twenty-three states and the District of Columbia have passed laws to remove taxes on period products. Five other states do not have a state sales tax. But there’s still more work to do, advocates say.
Fight to end period poverty
Experts stress making period products affordable is critical to ending period poverty, defined as the inability to access period supplies and/or receive adequate menstrual health education.
In the U.S. today, one in four people who menstruate struggle to afford period products, according to Alliance for Period Supplies.
And a 2021 study from the nonprofit’s founding sponsor U by Kotex showed that two in five people have struggled to purchase period products in their lifetime due to lack of income – a 35% increase from 2018 research. Black, Latina and low-income respondents were among those impacted by period poverty the most, the study found.
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Other calls for policy change include making period products free in all public bathrooms and providing comprehensive education to help work towards menstrual equity.
Period products are “a necessity and everyone should have access to them, just like basic food and shelter. It’s a matter of human rights,” Damaris Pereda, national programs director of global nonprofit Period., previously told USA TODAY.