From Rockport to Kennebunkport, if you’re shopping in Maine and the two items on your list are pudding mix and a box of tampons, you might be surprised to learn which item is taxed.
Spoiler alert: it’s not the dessert. In the state of Maine, all tampons, among other period products, are subject to a sales tax. That’s because these products are not deemed necessities worthy of a tax exemption — even though anyone with a period knows these items are, in fact, necessary.
Maine is not an outlier. It is one of 35 states in the U.S. that still impose the tampon tax. What sets Maine apart, however, is that it is uniquely poised to end this discriminatory practice.
This January, Maine lawmakers proposed a tampon tax bill, LD 286, which has since passed in both the Maine House and Senate this session. The bill is currently in review with the Appropriations Committee, awaiting its fate.
It’s also not the first time Maine has made headlines over menstrual policy. Earlier this year, Maine lawmakers debated over legislation that would ensure free access to menstrual products in state prisons. Rep. Richard Pickett publicly opposed it, quipping that jails were never meant to be “a country club.” His remark showed not only a lack of understanding of menstruation, but also reinforced the view of tampons and pads as frivolous, or a luxury.
This ignorance is exactly why this time around, Maine needs to end the tampon tax for good — and make clear to its constituents that access to affordable and accessible menstrual products is a priority.
Local advocates have made their voices heard. Testimonies flooded the legislative session this year, ranging from chapters of the American Civil Liberties Union and National Association of School Nurses, to high school students. “As a school nurse, students were frequenting my office regularly for supplies that they either did not have access to or could not afford,”said Janis Hogan of Belfast, Maine. She contacted her state representatives with a proposed solution: “I advocated having free period products in all of our female and transgender school bathrooms.”
Like Hogan, high school student Emeline Avignon of Long Island, Maine, is calling upon her representatives to make a change. Avignon is a fierce advocate for women’s health rights and dedicated her public policy research to the tampon tax. She sums it up perfectly: “The tax itself is not just another economic burden, but more importantly it is a symbol of ignorance and oversight to issues and double standards which apply to females. Exempting the tax is a small, but important symbolic step toward that goal for women.”
Maine has the ability to set a national example. Tax Free. Period.calls upon Governor Janet Mills and Appropriations Committee chairs, Senator Cathy Breen (D-Falmouth) and Representative Drew Gattine (D-Westbrook), to put an end to this illegal, discriminatory, and unconstitutional practice right now.
Want to get involved in the fight to end the tampon tax? Visit taxfreeperiod.com to learn more.