Women Are Now Stockpiling Tampons. Can We Run Out?

Photographed by Meg O'Donnell
The coronavirus outbreak has caused people to panic-buy as families begin to self-isolate and work from home. Shoppers are stockpiling toilet roll, cleaning products, pasta and other household items. On top of that, lots of women across the country are stockpiling sanitary towels and tampons, leaving many shelves empty for those in need. A 2018 study suggested that one in four women struggled to purchase menstrual hygiene products due to insufficient income and stockpiling sanitary towels will only make it harder for women who already can't afford them.
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Many women have shared their anger on social media, pointing out that stockpiling puts many women at risk. In a now viral tweet, one woman wrote: "Went into couple supermarkets, there's no pads/sanitary products, all out of stock. You're acc [sic] selfish stocking up on pads knowing that other women now can't have access. Tf am I supposed to do on my fucking period, use a fuckijf [sic] curtain? I-"
For 27-year-old Georgia, who lives in southeast London, finding tampons in her local Sainsbury's last Monday was also a struggle: "I was about to come on my period and always buy a few boxes of tampons on my big shop, but every sanitary product was gone. All the pads, Mooncups, tampons."
Luckily, she was able to find some in the local off-licence. "For people who rely on sanitary products being as affordable as possible (supermarkets tend to have offers on, but off-licences will hike up the price for a box of tampons), it's not ideal," she adds.
"People are obviously panicking but it's key we don't take everything and leave nothing for those who are most vulnerable or unable to get out of the house to shop themselves. Sharing and being selfless is really important during times like this."
Thirty-five-year-old blogger Sophie Crowley also spotted empty shelves in her local Sainsbury's in Hertfordshire. "I was in town to collect some prescriptions and buy paracetamol and ibuprofen. While I was in Sainsbury's, I couldn't help but notice the shelves of sanitary products were cleared too. I really felt for those who can only get to the shops once a week or simply can't afford to stockpile like so many are doing."
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British supermarkets published a joint letter on Sunday urging shoppers to stop stockpiling and to be considerate of others. "There is enough for everyone if we all work together," it read. The retailers have said they are working closely with suppliers and the government to make more deliveries to stores so that shelves are well stocked.
In an email to customers, Sainsbury's boss Mike Coupe said: "There are gaps on shelves because of increased demand, but we have new stock arriving regularly and we're doing our best to keep shelves stocked. Please think before you buy and only buy what you and your family need."
Andrew Opie, Director of Food & Sustainability at the British Retail Consortium, told Refinery29: "Retailers are aware that there has been a rise in demand for certain products. They are working closely with their suppliers to increase the supply of these goods and ensure customers can get the goods they need."
In short, if women stop stockpiling, there should be enough sanitary products for everyone. Think before you buy.
Refinery29 has contacted Sainsbury's and Boots for a statement.
The World Health Organization says you can protect yourself by washing your hands, covering your mouth when sneezing or coughing (ideally with a tissue), avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth and don't get too close to people who are coughing, sneezing or with a fever. If you suspect you have the symptoms of COVID-19 you should call NHS 111 and stay indoors.
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