Fusion

A group of five New York women are suing the state over the 4% "luxury tax" that applies to all tampons and sanitary pads in the state, because they say it's an unfair burden on women who need these products for their health.

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"It is a vestige of another era, and now it is time to end it," the lawsuit, which is targeted at the New York State Department of Taxation, reads. "New York State does not tax medical items. But the Department imposes a double standard when defining medical items for women and men. Medical products exclusively for women are taxed. Medical products also used by men are not."

According to the lawsuit, women in New York pay a total of around $14 million in taxes on tampons and pads every year, but other less essential products are exempt from the tax because they're classified as "medical items":

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For example, the Department considers Rogaine, foot powder, dandruff shampoo, chapstick, facial wash, adult diapers, and incontinence pads to be medical items. These products are not taxed. But medical items used only by women—tampons and sanitary pads—are taxed. Tampons and sanitary pads are far more necessary to the preservation of health than Rogaine, dandruff shampoo, or many other products the Department considers medically exempt. The Department’s double standard for men and women finds no support in the tax law and serves no purpose other than to discriminate.

Only five states nationwide have repealed a tax on tampons and pads: MarylandMassachusettsPennsylvaniaMinnesota, and New Jersey. Another five states don't have any sales tax at all, but the remaining 40 states tax tampons and pads as "luxury items". It's an extra cost that women nationally and around the world are expected to take on every month: women in Australia are pushing for a change and Canada just got rid of their tampon tax last year. President Obama said in January that he's all for states dropping their tampon taxes. "I suspect it’s because men were making the laws when those taxes were passed. I think it’s pretty sensible for women in those states that you just mentioned to work together to get those taxes removed.”

A spokesperson for New York Governor Andrew Cuomo told CBS News that he supports repealing the tax. A bill seeking to remove the tax has been introduced in the state assembly but has not yet made it to the state senate.