CVS, operating at 9,900+ retail locations nationwide, is led by woman CEO Karen Lynch. (Credit: Flickr)

CVS will reduce prices by 25% on its store-branded menstrual products nationwide and pay the sales taxes on those products in a dozen states. 

The price cuts are meant to combat the “pink tax” — a term referring to a cost disparity between women’s and men’s personal care products due to a sales tax placed on tampons, menstrual pads, liners and cups. 

The 12 states in which CVS will pay sales tax on period products are: Arkansas, Georgia, Hawaii, Louisiana, Missouri, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Wisconsin and West Virginia. In certain states, laws prevent third parties from paying taxes on behalf of customers.

For years, advocates have argued that sales taxes are being used to discriminate against women. For example: In Texas, menstrual products are listed in the state tax code as “wound care dressings,” but are still taxed — while Band-Aids, on the other hand, are exempt. 

CVS — captained by woman CEO Karen Lynch — also acknowledged that products such as razors and shaving cream are typically priced higher when marketed to women as opposed to men. A statement on its website says the company has reviewed thousands of products to ensure similar items are priced equally. 

“We don’t think women should pay more than men for the same thing,” it reads.

Across roughly half of the country, period products are considered luxury items, rather than necessities, and are not exempted from sales tax.

According to the Alliance for Period Supplies, a quarter of women struggled to afford menstrual products over the last year. 

“Period products are taxed at a similar rate to items like decor, electronics, makeup and toys,” the organization says.

Market researcher IRI determined that tampon prices increased by 12.2% for the year ending Oct. 2.

The pharmacy chain’s choice to only reduce the price of store-branded period products from CVS Health and Live Better has been met with some criticism. In an email to CNN, Dr. Padmini Murthy, the global health lead for the American Medical Women’s Association, wrote that reducing the prices of all period products would “highlight their commitment to addressing women’s health and pave the way for reducing menstrual inequity, and not just to promote the use of CVS products.” 

Others say the country itself could do more, pointing to Scotland, which in 2020 voted to make all period products free — the first country in the world to do so.