Shock over pricey tampons at airport
Vending machine note goes viral, sparks discourse on affordability of feminine products
CALGARY — A $15 box of tampons sold at the Calgary International Airport may have elicited shock online, but it’s common for feminine hygiene products to cost that much — or more — in many remote northern communities.
Carlee Field was waiting for a flight from Calgary to Vancouver last month when she stopped to use the ladies’ room in the terminal and saw a box of tampons with an unsigned handwritten note.
“None of the tampon vending machines work in this area so I was forced to buy this $15 box from Relay. Not acceptable!” the note said. “Please take one if you need one.”
Shortly after Field posted a photo on the social media site Reddit, the airport authority wrote that the machines had been refilled and the price at Relay had been lowered to $6.25.
Field is glad her post has opened a conversation about how period products are too often viewed as a luxury rather than a necessity.
“They give toilet paper away for free,” Field said. Why can’t they give pads and tampons away for free?”
Keetha Mercer, program manager of community initiatives at the Canadian Women’s Foundation, said she’s not surprised Field’s post went viral since it speaks to another cost women have to factor into their daily lives — a particular burden for 1.5 million women in Canada who live on a low income.
“Women are paid less and our products often cost more,” she said. “Women shouldn’t have to choose between putting food on the table and buying products for their basic needs, but that’s the reality for many women in Canada.”
The regional disparities are striking, she said.
In Iqaluit, a 40-pack of tampons is $15 and in the First Nations community of Attiwapiskat, Ont., near the shore of James Bay, it’s about $18.
Community organizer Nicole White began collecting donations of pads and tampons for schools, health centres and shelters after hearing that girls in northern Saskatchewan were missing school during their periods.
“If you’re a person who’s living under the poverty line, feminine hygiene products are seen as a luxury,” she said.
White’s group, Moon Time Sisters, donated 96,000 products to 15 Saskatchewan communities during its inaugural drive last spring. It has since branched out into Ontario.
“It is a pretty big expense for a lot of women,” said Veronica Bairos, who runs the Ontario chapter.
An anonymous note and a $15 box of tampons is shown in a women’s washroom at the Calgary International Airport on Nov. 26, 2017. Though many shocked at the price, women in remote Indigenous communities often pay that much or more for feminine hygiene products, according to the organization Moon Time Sisters.