Why CVS wants ID for nail polish remover purchases

There's no law requiring the chain to seek identification, but it's gone down this path before with ingredients used to make meth.

By Jason Notte Aug 12, 2013 4:49PM
A CVS store in Houston, Texas, U.S. Photographer: Aaron M. Sprecher/Bloomberg via Getty ImagesOne reminder while watching chemistry-teacher-turned-methamphetamine-kingpin Walter White stumble to his ignoble end during the final few episodes of AMC's "Breaking Bad": Meth cooks far less talented and more dangerous than his fictional character are why you get carded for everything at a drug store.

Add nail polish remover to the list of items getting the cigarettes-and-booze treatment. According to Boston National Public Radio station WBUR, CVS (CVS) stores in Southern New England now require identification from those buying the beauty product because it contains acetone and iodine -- two of the ingredients that can be used to make methamphetamine.

Yes, for now, you can still get nail polish remover at Walgreens (WAG) and Rite-Aid (RAD) without showing ID. No, this policy hasn't spread beyond New England and small portions of Washington, D.C. Yet.

Once it gets out that a particular product is part of the meth-making process, it doesn't take long for companies to throw up a few barricades between themselves and a liability suit. Right now, there is no state or federal law requiring companies to card for purchases involving nail polish remover, but similar rules aimed at restricting access to the pseudoephedrine found in Sudafed and other medications banished them behind the counter in very little time at all.

Just as your driver's license is scanned every time you buy high-octane cold medicine, CVS locations in southern New England will do the same each time someone buys nail polish remover. It is not known if CVS will hold on to that scanned information for two years, as it is required to by law when someone purchases some Sudafed.

Is this consumer inconvenience helping to solve the problem at all? It depends on how the problem is defined. If the problem is lawsuits against companies who sold ingredients to people who then manufactured methamphetamine -- such as the one that resulted in CVS paying a $77.6 million settlement in 2010 -- then, yes, corporate posteriors are far better shielded than they once were.

Has it stopped anyone from making methamphetamine or diminished the meth trade even slightly? According to Cascade Policy Institute data coming out of Oregon, which has required its citizens to obtain a prescription for cold medicine since 2005, such restrictions haven't diminished meth use at all. In fact, it's only changed the source from local labs to cartel-run superlabs in Mexico.

While that may have done wonders for "Breaking Bad" plot lines, it's become yet another everyday "war on drugs" inconvenience that has yielded no results. The numbers of folks strung out on meth or imprisoned on meth-related charges hasn't decreased and the real-life Walter Whites haven't had trouble finding ingredients, but at least now CVS can hassle some poor 13-year-old from Fall River who just wanted a redo on her chipped-up acrylic.

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Aug 12, 2013 5:50PM

This is beyond Stupid.

What's next?   Showing your ID when you buy rubbing alcohol. 


Aug 12, 2013 7:34PM
ID for nail polish remover, but none to vote?
Aug 12, 2013 6:00PM
Funny, but they won't have to ask for ID for the kind of remover that has no acetone.  The kind that doesn't work will be on the shelves, and the kind that does work will be under lock and key.  The same thing happened to cold medicine, and now more people suffer from cold symptoms, but the meth users are still getting what they need. 
Aug 12, 2013 5:49PM
Well, that should shoot up the sales for nail polish remover.
Aug 12, 2013 7:38PM
You can buy acetone in gallon cans at any hardware store and iodine separately at pharmacies with no check. Why would you pay 100 times as much buying nail polish remover to get the same ingredients?
Aug 12, 2013 5:58PM
CVS, are you locking it behind the counter so shoppers can't lift it one cup at a time, or are you just hassling the people who pay for it?  I am wondering 'cause it doesn't seem like you are going to have enough locking storage for everything that people are going to be able to use to get high. 
Aug 12, 2013 6:54PM

It cracked me up when they started doing the ID thing for cold medicine. Meth labs are in the country, rarely in a city, cause you can smell them a mile away. You don't need to find people buying cold medicine here...if somebody is stupid enough to try building a meth lab here, they get turned in pretty instantly by their neighbors. They should spend their money educating people on how to tell there is a meth lab...cause if people knew the dangers, they would be calling them in as fast as they opened.

The war on drugs is a lesson in futility. As long as people want them & are willing to pay top dollar for them, there's always going to be people making & selling.

Aug 12, 2013 9:28PM
I'm a certified chemist and used to have to sign for certain chemicals ordered by my employers when I was working - like a chemical prescription.  To think I'd now have to sign for acetone is hilarious!
Aug 13, 2013 8:09AM
Given the ultra high prices at CVS, why would anyone shop there anyway? 
Aug 12, 2013 10:52PM

Well the US Government nailed CVS in 2010 for $77.6 million, according to the linked referenced article. I think that that was wrong of the government.

They should have nailed the meth manufacturing druggers and put them in prison. Oh, wait... I see today that Eric Holder wants to release thousands of "non-violent" criminal druggers because of of the minimum sentencing rules are resulting in overcrowding in the USG prison system.

If this happens, just wait until all the released criminals get out and get back to "work" burgling and robbing even more ordinary law-abiding citizens. Think "Law of unintended consequences" here.

Aug 13, 2013 9:58AM

All the store want you to register or give your phone numbers. That is crazy. I just don't go to those places any more and buy somewhere else. To buy ordinary things clerk asks phone number. Pretty soon they will ask you to feel out the form.


Just pick up lots of things and they ask for anything stupid info. leaqve it there and walk out. Let them restock it. At least that will be cost. They will have to think about collecting information

Aug 13, 2013 9:12PM
Why is it some people, politicians and businesses think they can write their own laws? CVS is also the company that won't hire overweight people (their idea of overweight) which should be discrimination. But other companies will banned wagon on this if they continue to get away with it. I don't shop CVS!
Aug 12, 2013 10:21PM
Nail polish remover? There are far cheaper methods to get acetone and iodine in bulk.

What about the other 50% of items in the store that you can get high off of or use to make something to get high from? Are they going to start to require ID to enter the store next?

There will always be a way around these restrictions and doing this on your own will just piss off and drive away customers.
Aug 14, 2013 4:40AM
I buy my hydrocodone and valium without ID. When they start asking for ID to buy milk, I'm moving to Denmark.
Aug 18, 2013 11:12PM
Great--now if the employees who work there could stop making it in the store, that would be phenomenal. I've been into several CVS locations over the past month while traveling up and down the California coast, and so many of them are staffed and (gasp) managed by tweakers. Just smell for the match heads (San Luis Obispo near Madonna), drano (Palm Desert), and cat urine-like odors (Studio City, next to Vons). The lingering metallic toxins cling to purchases and they must be thrown out. CVS, PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE START RANDOMLY DRUG TESTING YOUR EMPLOYEES (AND PHARMACY TECHS) FROM THE TOP DOWN. PLEASE. 
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