Getting caught outside the home without a pad or tampon is a given for many women. Going to a pharmacy or other store to get what is needed is a breeze for them too.

However, access to sanitary products is not always possible for women without financial means. For example, at Target, boxes of tampons, 36 or 50 per box, cost $ 6.99 or $ 9.39 – excluding tax. For pads, the cost of boxes with 30 or 42 pads is about the same. Depending on how heavy or how easy the flow is, a woman could spend a few hundred dollars a year on sanitary protection.

To add a little perspective, the federal minimum hourly wage is less than a box of 50 tampons. it stands at $ 7.25. There are 29 states and the District of Columbia with minimum wages above $ 7.25. The Census Bureau estimates that 10% of the US population lives in poverty, which is the equivalent of a family of four living on $ 26,200 a year.

On the tax issue, more on that point in a minute.

Age of Enlightenment

Scotland made news this week by being the first country to provide free menstrual products to those who can’t afford it. The products are provided by the local authorities.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, Chairwoman of the Scottish Government, tweeted her support.

Proud to vote for this groundbreaking legislation, making Scotland the first country in the world to offer free products to anyone who needs them. An important policy for women and girls. Well done to @ MonicaLennon7 @ClydesdAileen and everyone who worked to make this happen

– Nicola Sturgeon (@NicolaSturgeon) November 24, 2020

In 2018, Young Scot, a youth information initiative, published a survey of over 2,000 young people in Scotland. Ninety-five percent of the respondents were female, three percent were male, and the rest said nothing.

A quarter of those surveyed said they had problems accessing period products. More than half of them said they couldn’t afford to buy pads or tampons. Most who had trouble getting tampons or pads said they would ask a friend or use toilet paper as an alternative.

In an interview with Cosmopolitan, Katrina Bradley, a gynecologist in New York City, said it was okay to make a temporary pad, but toilet paper should never be inserted into the vagina: “Because tp is so delicate, tiny pieces can flake off, bacteria attract and possibly cause infection, ”she said.

A tax on tampons

At the end of this year, the UK will remove a tax on pads and tampons that were previously taxed as “non-essential luxury goods”.

In the United States, 34 state governments have levied sales tax on menstrual hygiene products such as pads and tampons as of November 2019, according to Investopedia.

PERIOD, an advocacy group, and Thinx, a company that makes menstrual products, called for an end to taxes on tampons and pads in the United States, as well as laws to improve education and access to sanitary products.

In a 2019 report, the groups found that one in five American teenagers had difficulty getting monthly protection. They also found that 84% of students missed class or know someone who missed class because they did not have access to toiletries.

Sabrina Emms is a science journalist. She began as an intern on a health and science podcast on Philadelphia public radio. Before that, she worked as a researcher studying the way bones are formed. When she is not in the lab and at her computer, she is in the moonlight as an assistant to a pig veterinarian and bagel baker.