In a story that 50% of people may find insignificant while the other 50% find it infuriating, Thailand has officially reclassified tampons as cosmetics. The plan had been in the works since last month, with Minister of Public Health Anutin Charnvirakul signing the original plan June 29, but today’s publishing in the Royal Gazette makes the plan official. The move is seemingly a win for women’s health, but a tax downside was quickly revealed.
Being classified as a cosmetic means that tampons now fall under stronger regulation. Quality control and certain rules and standards now apply. Government agencies will now make sure that various brands maintain standards of quality and health and safety. The text of the order declaring the reclassification stressed this point, citing the need to protect the safety and health of users as the reason for the change. Information was fairly vague about what the next steps to this end would be.
But controversy quickly arose as it was pointed out that cosmetics are taxed at a 30% rate. Tampons have been mentioned in tax debates in the past in reference to high tax rates and had even been called a luxury item at one point. Worldwide tampons have been an often-referenced example of the concept of a “pink tax” – how products geared towards women are often more expensive, even when comparable products for men are not. The name comes from an anecdotal example of a brand of shaving razors for men and women that are identical in every way except one is pink, with the pricing significantly higher.
Many have debated the pink tax and often male-dominated government’s tendency to consider female-only expenses from tampons up to child-birth as less necessary or protected than other health expenses. Tampons being charged a 30% tax now is yet another example, and Thai women and even men took to social media to fight back.
Within hours of the announcement #TamponsWithoutTax in Thai was a top trending hashtag in Thailand with over 430,000 tweets about it by evening time. The backlash was so quick and severe that the government quickly backed down and issued a clarification this evening that the reclassification of tampons will protect health and safety, but not be subject to the 30% cosmetic tax, only sales tax and VAT as usual. A victory for Thai women via social media.
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