Things started to change in the last few years, as female representation in state legislatures increased and a new generation revitalized the issue, she said. In 2016, attorneys started filing lawsuits against various states over the tax, and in 2019 activist teenagers and college students around the country made a concerted effort to flood state comptroller offices with applications for tax refunds on menstrual product purchases.
That helped flag the issue to state lawmakers and, between 2016 and 2019, California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Nevada, New York, Maryland, Rhode Island and Ohio eliminated the tax (though some states still allow local taxes).
In 2019, when Ms. Herman was a law student, she and dozens of other students similarly filed for tax refunds on period products they purchased in Texas, kicking off the effort there to eliminate the tariff. Earlier this year, Representative Donna Howard — who had been pushing Texas to drop the tampon tax since 2017 — introduced a bill in the legislature, a version of which was signed into law in June.
During the pandemic, the federal stimulus bill categorized menstrual products as essential, allowing consumers to buy them with money from health savings and flexible savings accounts. That also led to change at the state level, Ms. Strausfeld said. Between 2020 and 2022, 10 more states eliminated their tampon taxes.
Last year, the retailer CVS agreed to pay tampon taxes on behalf of the consumer — in stores and online — in 10 of the states where they still stand: Arkansas, Georgia, Hawaii, Louisiana, Missouri, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, Wisconsin and West Virginia. Other states do not allow vendors to pay sales taxes. The company also dropped the prices of CVS-brand period products by 25 percent across its stores to help make them more accessible.