We all know the tampon tax is nonsense. But because women's sanitary products are classified as "luxury items" rather than essential, we pay 5% VAT when we buy them. When he was prime minister, David Cameron persuaded European ministers to change EU rules so the tampon tax could be scrapped, but this can't happen until 2018 at the earliest. So for now, every time a cis woman of child-bearing age buys sanitary towels, panty liners or tampons, she's essentially being taxed on her biological functions.
The powers that be at Tesco clearly agree this is unfair, because it's just become the first UK supermarket chain to cover the cost of the tampon tax for its customers. Tesco's brand director, Michelle McEttrick, said in a statement: "For many of our customers, tampons, panty liners and sanitary towels are essential products. However, the cost of buying them every month can add up, and for many women and girls it can be a real struggle on top of other essential items. That’s why we are reducing the cost of these products by 5%."
The 5% price cut will apply to nearly 100 Tesco own-label and branded sanitary products, the supermarket chain has confirmed.
Paula Sherriff, the Labour MP who has spearheaded the campaign to end the tampon tax, welcomed Tesco's announcement and urged other supermarkets to follow suit.
"It would have been completely unacceptable if abolishing the tampon tax had just led to big businesses boosting their bottom line at the expense of women buying what are essential goods, which is why we pushed the supermarkets to sign up to a deal to pass the cut on," she told The Guardian. "But this goes a step even further, by reducing prices right now – and I hope the other big retailers now consider doing the same."
Until the tampon tax is scrapped, the money raised from the 5% VAT on sanitary products is being awarded to women's charities. However, the government was criticised earlier this year when it emerged that one of the charities that has benefited from the tax is an anti-abortion group.