Tampon Innovations and Taxes
Tampon-news has been increasing recently. I was surprised to learn that in Europe, although tampons are used by women and placed inside their body, they are less regulated than band-aids and hand sanitizer because they are considered to be personal care products and not medical devices. Due to little product differentiation, women are unlikely to switch tampon brands, and most continue to use the first brand they used as a young women. This phenomenon has decreased the motivation of tampon companies to innovate and improve over the years.
Some new companies are trying to solve this problem:
Tampons With CBD? Coming Soon (Tech Crunch): Daye is developing a pharma-grade biodegradable tampon that uses CBD (Cannabidiol, the second most prevalent of the active ingredients of cannabis (marijuana) to help combat dysmenorrhea (period cramps) instead of traditional painkillers. They just raised $5.5M and although there is currently a big hype around CBD, they are looking to manufacture healthier & more sustainable tampons. If you're looking to read a good CBD summary, check out this NY Times Magazine piece.
Tampons that Detect Endometriosis? Clinical Trials Soon (Tech Crunch): NextGen Jane is trying to detect endometriosis through a custom-made tampon instead of a surgical procedure. I wrote about them previously, and now am happy to hear they have successfully nabbed $9M worth of funding! They plan on using this funding to run a clinical trial of 800 women (the women will wear the custom-made tampons for two hours and then send them to the lab). If they are successful, they hope to also be able to test for cervical cancers and other disorders in the future.
Conscious Tampons -- Closed Down (Femtastic Podcast): Check out this podcast interview with the co-founders of Conscious Period, Annie Lascoe and Margo Lang. This one is less of a success story but interesting nonetheless. Conscious Tampons made organic tampons (and donated menstrual products to homeless women) but has closed down. Check out their Facebook post here where they explain that there is a big supply chain problem that is stifling innovation in the field -- there are only 6 factories in the world producing organic cotton tampons and only 1 factory that builds the machines to make tampons. Besides Conscious Tampons, there are quite a few growing and successful organic tampon companies that have emerged. They are still quite pricey, but you can check out Cosmopolitan's list here.
Tampon Tax -- Some States Finally Cut These Taxes (Bloomberg): Items seen as necessary for survival such as food, water, as well as prescription and nonprescription drugs (Viagra, aspirin, sunscreen, condoms, gauze) are exempt from sales tax in the US. For some reason menstrual hygiene products (from tampons, pads, cups, etc.) do not fall into this category. A study published this February in Obstetrics and Gynecology uncovered that half of low-income women in St. Louis Missouri can't afford menstrual products at least once a year. A few states have repealed the so-called tampon tax, but the vast majority of women in the US still pay sales tax on these necessary products. This NPR piece discusses the benefits and costs. The situation in the in EU is not much better (see this Civio piece).