Valley News – ‘A bad thing for women’: Shortage of tampons among challenges women in Upper Valley face

WEST LEBANON — A nationwide shortage of tampons is resulting in empty shelves at major drugstore retailers, including in the Upper Valley, higher prices, and now the attention of New Hampshire lawmakers and women’s health advocates , who call scarcity another difficult burden. women and families.

Deborah Jordan Brooks, professor of women’s, gender and sexuality studies at Dartmouth College, said this shortage of tampons is “a bad thing for women”, which adds “insult to the hurt” for women. women who have already had to endure a litany of challenges. , from struggling to find child care to formula shortages to funding for Planned Parenthood health services by states, including New Hampshire.

Brooks, who has advocated for better local and global access to feminine hygiene and menstrual health, said she was particularly concerned about the impact of these shortages on women and families living in poverty. .

“There are so many things that women need for themselves and their families right now that they don’t have access to,” Brooks said. “So many things are hitting right now [and] it is usually the most marginalized people who tend to be at the mercy of economic changes and shortages before anyone else.

U.S. makers of feminine hygiene products — including Procter & Gamble, maker of Tampax, and Edgewater Personal Care, which makes Playtex — have reported “temporary delays” in filling orders for tampon products, citing a combination of issues supply chain and considerable growth in retail demand.

Cheri McMaster, spokesperson for Procter & Gamble, according to a Time article on June 7, indicated that demand for Tampax had increased by 7.7% over the past two years. McMaster said the increase in retail sales followed the company’s advertising campaign for Tampax featuring comedienne Amy Schumer.

The Time The article also noted that all of Procter & Gamble’s pads are made at a plant in Maine, while all of Edgewell’s pads are made at a plant in Dover, Delaware.

The average price of tampons has risen nearly 10% in the past year to May 28, according to a June 9 Bloomberg article, which cites data from data analytics firm NielsenIQ.

The Bloomberg article also attributed the inflation in tampon prices to rising costs for their materials, including cotton, whose domestic production has been affected by the drought, and petroleum-based polymers.

The high cost of transport fuel is also contributing to higher transport costs, as well as delays, as “record diesel prices have reduced the profitability of drivers to the point that some refuse to transport loads”, according to the Bloomberg report.

Average prices rose 8.3% for a pack of sanitary napkins and 9.8% for tampons in the year to May 28, according to NielsenIQ. Personal care products, a broad category that includes vintage products and items such as shampoo and shaving equipment, saw their largest annual price increase since August 2012, April Bureau figures show. of Labor Statistics.

In the Upper Valley, shortages of feminine products may be more apparent at larger retail chain pharmacies, according to several independent pharmacies in the region, which told the Valley News that their stores carry only a small stock of feminine hygiene products.

“I wasn’t aware there was a shortage,” said Jason Hockberg, owner of Smilin’ Steve’s Ottauquechee Pharmacy in Woodstock. “I haven’t heard any complaints from our customers about our stocking of products.”

But at a CVS pharmacy in Claremont, the absence of tampons is more glaring. At the end of last week, the pad shelves were mostly empty save for a few stray boxes that collectively would only fill about a tenth of the total shelf space provided by the store.

The CVS manager, who did not provide his name, said he had recently returned to the store and could not speak to the supply shortage, which he said is being managed at the store level. ‘company.

In statements to the media, CVS Health and Walgreens acknowledged temporary shortages of certain brands of feminine hygiene products due to a manufacturing shortage, although neither specified which brands were affected or when these shortages were expected. be resolved.

Krista Duval, director of the Dartmouth Health Women’s Health Resource Center in Lebanon, said the center has not been affected by the nationwide shortage.

The Women’s Health Resource Center runs a menstrual product bank, where women in need can come once every 14 days to receive a free set of feminine care products. Availability depends on donations, although Duval said the center’s supply has not suffered.

In addition to disposable menstrual products, such as tampons and pads, the Women’s Health Resource Center also offers reusable products, such as washable cups and pads, which are available for purchase or free when a given supply is available. Prices for reusable products range from $25 to $40, depending on the type or size of the product.

“So if people want to try them, we also provide them,” Duval said, adding that women can visit the bank during the centre’s normal opening hours, Monday to Friday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. .

The Planned Parenthood center in White River Junction also provides free menstrual products for women at their center. The Valley News has contacted the center to inquire about its product supply but has not received a response at the time of publication.

The ability for women to explore alternatives to disposable menstrual products, such as those available at the Women’s Health Resource Center, could be a positive outcome of this otherwise undesirable situation, said Dartmouth professor Brooks.

“I don’t mean in any way to suggest that it’s good to have shortages and price increases for menstrual products for women,” Brooks said. “But one thing that might come out of this is that more women in the United States might become aware of alternatives to reusable menstrual products or alternatives to bleeding entirely through the strategic use of birth control.”

Contraceptives that allow the body to avoid menstruation include birth control pills and intrauterine devices (IUDs).

Many women in America are less familiar with reusable menstrual products, which are currently not as widely available as disposable products and could have a higher upfront cost, Brooks noted.

On June 13, Sen. Maggie Hassan (DN.H.), a member of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, sent a letter to the CEOs of the five major U.S. tampon manufacturers, including John Moeller, of Procter & Gamble, to raise concerns about public reports of tampon shortages and alleged price gouging.

While acknowledging that data is limited to study price changes, Hassan noted that tampon prices are “up 10% from a year ago,” while Procter & Gamble saw a gain of 10% sales in its feminine care division, “its biggest sales gain in decades.

“Access to menstrual products should be treated like any other essential good,” Hassan told company executives. “At the start of the pandemic, rising prices for essentials like toilet paper, cleaning supplies and hand sanitizer were rightly criticized as exploiting an emergency for profit. Menstrual products should receive the same consideration.

Patrick Adrian can be contacted at [email protected].

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