New York state's 'tampon tax' targeted in class-action suit

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Push to End So-Called "Tampon Tax"

NEW YORK, March 3 (Reuters) - New York state's "tampon tax" reflects a double standard that applies the sales tax to menstrual products used by women while exempting items typically used by men, such as Rogaine and condoms, according to a class-action lawsuit filed on Thursday.

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"It's a tax on women for being women. And that's wrong," said Ilann Maazel, a lawyer representing the five women who filed the class action in state Supreme Court in Manhattan.

New York is one of 40 states that levy a sales tax on feminine sanitary products, and Maazel said he hoped suing the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance would trigger a national rollback of what he said are illegal taxes.

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New York state's 'tampon tax' targeted in class-action suit
A demonstrator holds up signs in support of pro-life rights outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, March 2, 2016. Supreme Court justices clashed in their first abortion showdown in almost a decade as a pivotal justice suggested the court could stop short of a definitive ruling on a disputed Texas law regulating clinics. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Demonstrators hold up signs in support of pro-choice rights outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, March 2, 2016. Supreme Court justices clashed in their first abortion showdown in almost a decade as a pivotal justice suggested the court could stop short of a definitive ruling on a disputed Texas law regulating clinics. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Stephanie Toti, senior counsel at the Center for Reproductive Rights, listens to a question from a member of the media outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, March 2, 2016. Supreme Court justices clashed in their first abortion showdown in almost a decade as a pivotal justice suggested the court could stop short of a definitive ruling on a disputed Texas law regulating clinics. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 2: Anti-abortion advocates stand in protest outside of the Supreme Court, March 2, 2016 in Washington, DC. On Wednesday morning, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt case, where the justices will consider a Texas law requiring that clinic doctors have admitting privileges at local hospitals and that clinics upgrade their facilities to standards similar to hospitals. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 2: Pro-choice advocates (left) and anti-abortion advocates (right) rally outside of the Supreme Court, March 2, 2016 in Washington, DC. On Wednesday morning, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt case, where the justices will consider a Texas law requiring that clinic doctors have admitting privileges at local hospitals and that clinics upgrade their facilities to standards similar to hospitals. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
A demonstrators holds up a sign in support of pro-choice rights outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, March 2, 2016. Supreme Court justices clashed in their first abortion showdown in almost a decade as a pivotal justice suggested the court could stop short of a definitive ruling on a disputed Texas law regulating clinics. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
A demonstrator holds up a sign in support of pro-life rights outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, March 2, 2016. Supreme Court justices clashed in their first abortion showdown in almost a decade as a pivotal justice suggested the court could stop short of a definitive ruling on a disputed Texas law regulating clinics. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
A demonstrator holds up a sign in support of abortion rights outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, March 2, 2016. Supreme Court justices clashed in their first abortion showdown in almost a decade as a pivotal justice suggested the court could stop short of a definitive ruling on a disputed Texas law regulating clinics. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 2: Pro-choice advocates rally outside of the Supreme Court, March 2, 2016 in Washington, DC. On Wednesday morning, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt case, where the justices will consider a Texas law requiring that clinic doctors have admitting privileges at local hospitals and that clinics upgrade their facilities to standards similar to hospitals. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 2: Anti-abortion advocates rally outside of the Supreme Court, March 2, 2016 in Washington, DC. On Wednesday morning, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt case, where the justices will consider a Texas law requiring that clinic doctors have admitting privileges at local hospitals and that clinics upgrade their facilities to standards similar to hospitals. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 2: Pro-choice advocates rally outside of the Supreme Court, March 2, 2016 in Washington, DC. On Wednesday morning, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt case, where the justices will consider a Texas law requiring that clinic doctors have admitting privileges at local hospitals and that clinics upgrade their facilities to standards similar to hospitals. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Pro-abortion rights protesters rally outside the Supreme Court in Washington, Wednesday, March 2, 2016. The abortion debate is returning to the Supreme Court in the midst of a raucous presidential campaign and less than three weeks after Justice Antonin Scaliaâs death. The justices are taking up the biggest case on the topic in nearly a quarter century and considering whether a Texas law that regulates abortion clinics hampers a womanâs constitutional right to obtain an abortion. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
Pro-abortion rights protesters rally outside the Supreme Court in Washington, Wednesday, March 2, 2016. The abortion debate is returning to the Supreme Court in the midst of a raucous presidential campaign and less than three weeks after Justice Antonin Scaliaâs death. The justices are taking up the biggest case on the topic in nearly a quarter century and considering whether a Texas law that regulates abortion clinics hampers a womanâs constitutional right to obtain an abortion. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
Members of the public arrive to visit the Supreme Court as anti-abortion and pro-abortion rights protesters rally outside the Supreme Court in Washington, Wednesday, March 2, 2016. The abortion debate is returning to the Supreme Court in the midst of a raucous presidential campaign and less than three weeks after Justice Antonin Scaliaâs death. The justices are taking up the biggest case on the topic in nearly a quarter century and considering whether a Texas law that regulates abortion clinics hampers a womanâs constitutional right to obtain an abortion. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
Members of the public arrive to visit the Supreme Court in Washington, Wednesday, March 2, 2016, as anti-abortion and pro-abortion rights protesters rally outside the court in. The abortion debate is returning to the Supreme Court in the midst of a raucous presidential campaign and less than three weeks after Justice Antonin Scalia's death. The justices are taking up the biggest case on the topic in nearly a quarter century and considering whether a Texas law that regulates abortion clinics hampers a woman's constitutional right to obtain an abortion. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wis. speaks outside the Supreme Court in Washington, Wednesday, March 2, 2016, as the abortion debate returned to the Supreme Court in the midst of a raucous presidential campaign and less than three weeks after Justice Antonin Scalia's death. The justices are taking up the biggest case on the topic in nearly a quarter century Wednesday, considering whether a Texas law that regulates abortion clinics hampers a woman's constitutional right to obtain an abortion. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
The flag flies at half staff in honor of Justice Antonin Scalia, as members of the public arrive to visit the Supreme Court in Washington, Wednesday, March 2, 2016, as anti-abortion and pro-abortion rights protesters rally outside the court. The abortion debate is returning to the Supreme Court in the midst of a raucous presidential campaign and less than three weeks after Justice Antonin Scaliaâs death. The justices are taking up the biggest case on the topic in nearly a quarter century and considering whether a Texas law that regulates abortion clinics hampers a womanâs constitutional right to obtain an abortion. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wis. speaks outside the Supreme Court in Washington, Wednesday, March 2, 2016, as the abortion debate returned to the Supreme Court in the midst of a raucous presidential campaign and less than three weeks after Justice Antonin Scalia's death. The justices are taking up the biggest case on the topic in nearly a quarter century Wednesday, considering whether a Texas law that regulates abortion clinics hampers a woman's constitutional right to obtain an abortion. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
Supporters of legal access to abortion, as well as anti-abortion activists, rally outside the Supreme Court in Washington, DC, March 2, 2016, as the Court hears oral arguments in the case of Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt, which deals with access to abortion. / AFP / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
Supporters of legal access to abortion, as well as anti-abortion activists, rally outside the Supreme Court in Washington, DC, March 2, 2016, as the Court hears oral arguments in the case of Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt, which deals with access to abortion. / AFP / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
Supporters of legal access to abortion, as well as anti-abortion activists, rally outside the Supreme Court in Washington, DC, March 2, 2016, as the Court hears oral arguments in the case of Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt, which deals with access to abortion. / AFP / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
Supporters of legal access to abortion rally outside the Supreme Court in Washington, DC, March 2, 2016, as the Court hears oral arguments in the case of Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt, which deals with access to abortion. / AFP / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
Supporters of legal access to abortion rally outside the Supreme Court in Washington, DC, March 2, 2016, as the Court hears oral arguments in the case of Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt, which deals with access to abortion. / AFP / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
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The five women who filed the lawsuit include an actor, photographer, law school professor, church program coordinator and data scientist.

The lawsuit seeks to end the tax and to refund money to the estimated 5 million women who purchase menstrual products in the state.

The 4 percent state sales tax applied to tampons, sanitary napkins and other products used by women during their monthly menstrual cycle amounts to $14 million a year in New York, Maazel said.

Menstrual products should be included on the list of items exempt from the sales tax because they are deemed necessary to human health. That exemption is already granted to Rogaine, condoms, foot powder, dandruff shampoo, acne soap, incontinence pads and other items, the lawsuit said.

"These are not luxury items, but a necessity for women's health," the lawsuit said.

Women spend an average of $70 each year on tampons and pad, according to the lawsuit.

"Without access to tampons and sanitary pads, women are forced to use unsanitary and dirty rags - which can lead to infections and an increased risk of diseases such as cervical cancer - or have nothing at all to staunch the blood - which poses a risk to the health of women and the public," the suit says.

A spokesman for the state tax department, Geoff Gloak, declined comment.

New York, California and several other states have introduced legislation to exempt menstrual products from their sales tax. (Additional reporting by Karen Freifeld in New York; Editing by Leslie Adler)


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