This UK supermarket just became the first to pay tampon tax for its customers

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Moya Crockett
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Tesco has become the first retailer in the UK to pay the tampon tax on behalf of its customers, meaning that we’ll soon be able to buy sanitary products without being slapped with an additional charge.

Tampons, pads and liners are currently taxed at 5%, thanks to their status as “luxury” or “non-essential” items under the European Commission. Tesco has now pledged to cut the price of nearly 100 sanitary products by 5% to absorb the cost of VAT.

Michelle McEttrick, Tesco group brand director, said that the company wanted to help women who might find themselves struggling to afford sanitary products.

“For many of our customers, tampons, panty liners and sanitary towels are essential products,” she said.

“However, the cost of buying them every month can add up, and for many women and girls it can be a real struggle on top of other essential items,” McEttrick continued. “That’s why we are reducing the cost of these products by 5%.”

The price cut will apply to Tesco’s own-label products as well as sanitary products by other brands, The Guardian reports.

The tampon tax has been a target for feminist campaigners for years, with legislation to eliminate the VAT expected to come into effect in April 2018.

Until then, the government promised to spend the revenue from the tax on women’s charities. This was a controversial policy when first announced by former chancellor George Osborne, but became even more so when it emerged that the government intended to donate £250,000 to an anti-abortion group. It’s currently unclear whether this payment ever went ahead ( has reached out to the charity in question for comment).

Elsewhere, the high cost of sanitary products continues to pose problems for low-income women and girls. Earlier this year, an investigation by a charity revealed that girls in some areas of the UK were missing school because they couldn’t afford to buy tampons or pads.

In July, meanwhile, the Scottish government announced it would be the first country in the world to offer free sanitary products to women and girls from low-income households.

Watch: Why do we still struggle to talk about periods?

Paula Sherriff, the Labour MP who has spearheaded the campaign against the tampon tax, praised Tesco’s decision to reduce the price of its sanitary products by 5%, and said that she hoped other businesses would follow its lead.

She said that she had been concerned that retailers would exploit the abolition of the tampon tax in 2018, by keeping on-shelf prices the same and taking the extra profit for themselves.

“[That] is why we pushed the supermarkets to sign up to a deal to pass the cut on,” she said.

“But this goes a step even further, by reducing prices right now – and I hope the other big retailers now consider doing the same.”

Waitrose, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons, Asda and Boots have also all pledged to pass on the 5% savings to customers when the tampon tax is abolished in 2018.

Images: iStock, Rex Features