Pay As You Flow

Like obstetricians and undertakers, tampon and pad manufacturers can count on a steady flow. Of customers. But as Tambrands Inc., Playtex, Johnson & Johnson, and Kimberly-Clark Corporation build their market knowing that they have a captive audience of women and girls who need their products, the government completely dismisses the notion of need, taxing these items as luxuries. Or so it would seem.

But Karl Felsen, the amazing New York State Taxation department detail man who has all the quirky aspects of tax law at his fingertips, asserts that the tax on tampons is not a luxury versus nonluxury decision. Felsen explains that only drugs or medicine used in the treatment or prevention of disease are exempted. Since ``sanitary'' products aren't actually sterile, they don't qualify. (These laws are arcane and peculiar; interpreting them seems the stuff of rabbinical scholars: If chapstick, which fends off the dangerous dry-lips condition is exempt, why is suntan lotion, which fends off cancer, taxed?) Of course, Felsen is right in the narrowest sense, tampons and pads are not medical products. But the legislators' intent in exempting food, drugs, and services like dentists and doctors was to make a distinction between things you need and things you can do without.

So buck up, as you place that pad in your panties--you'll be sitting in the lap of luxury.