CVS To Require Identification For Purchasing Nail Polish

250px-Breaking_Bad_logo.svg250px-Nail_polish_dropFor those of us who are fans of the series of “Breaking Bad,” this is a story that may hold particularly interest given the lessons of Walter White on the production of his “blue ice.” CVS customers are being asked to produce identification before they buy nail polish because the product contains acetone and can be used to make methamphetamine. While store employees are quoted as blaming federal and state laws, there is no such requirement under federal or state law. Rather it is a company policy that strikes me as perfectly moronic even when the store is openly selling “Blue Ice Nail Polish.”

CVS says the rule is an attempt to curb the making of illegal methamphetamine:

“Because acetone is an ingredient used in the illegal manufacture of methamphetamine, we recently implemented a policy that a valid ID must be presented to purchase acetone-containing products such as nail polish remover. Our policy also limits the sale of these products in conjunction with other methamphetamine precursors and is based on various regulations requiring retailers to record sales of acetone.”
“Because acetone is an ingredient used in the illegal manufacture of methamphetamine, we recently implemented a policy . . .”

Here’s my question. How does this make a meaningful difference since there is no record kept of people buying nail polish. Most adults will simply flash their identification and buy the polish. As for kids, they are clearly able to buy nail polish through third parties and, if they are clever enough to manufacture Meth, I am pretty sure that they are clever enough to buy nail polish.

It is also not clear what CVS will do with a customer who buys beyond what is deemed a necessary amount of nail polish. If this were the standard, my daughter and her friends would appear the biggest meth dealers in her elementary school.

What they need is my favorite character and fellow attorney, Sam Goodman, to simply grab the kids at the CVS and use his signature line: “Look, let’s start with some tough love. You two suck at peddling meth. Period.”

Besides, if CVS wants to deal with its Meth production problem, it may want to start carding those men buying “Blue Ice” . It is just an attractive nuisance for those middle aged Heisenberg wannabes.

30 thoughts on “CVS To Require Identification For Purchasing Nail Polish”

  1. I have a problem when I buy my over the counter decongestant here in Illinois. I have to sign a book and show my drivers license and I can only buy 10 at a time. I sure hope it is helping the cause of reducing meth labs. If not, they need to end the ban asap. If you can purchase acetone at hardware stores in bulk sizes, this ban seems stupid.

  2. Gene H.
    “Say my na . . . damn. Chipped a nail.”
    LOL 🙂


    Steve F: “Every hay fever season, as I stand in line to show my ID and fill out the (conveniently automated) forms for the Gestapo to get my decongestant, I find myself fuming.”
    Right, I just haaaaaate that.

  3. Nick,

    Scant minutes after pressing the submit button, I regretted my hasty choice of words, and I offer my apology.

    I do think I was shocked at least in part because the sentiment seemed so out of sorts with your usual stance. Every hay fever season, as I stand in line to show my ID and fill out the (conveniently automated) forms for the Gestapo to get my decongestant, I find myself fuming. My personal viewpoint is that we didn’t really save ourselves anything by putting the small producers out of business, since the negative effects are mostly a result of use, not manufacture. Put another way, if you close down the Baldwin Sisters’ production of Papa’s Recipe, you put production into the hands of the considerably more efficient and ruthless Capone and Moran mobs. That’s not a net benefit.

  4. Yep, treat every customer buying nail polish as a criminal and guess what, the pharmacy next door gets the business.

    I wonder if CVS is also willing to regulate other dangerous contraband such as lithium batteries, salt, drain cleaner, matches, coffee filters, glassware, coolers, and plastic pop bottles?

  5. This probably won’t make regular users of ephedrine feel any better, but if the government had it’s way, it would have been draconian.

    Most folks here are old enough to remember Quaaludes. They’re a barbiturate that were horribly abused back in the 60’s and 70’s. When combined w/ alcohol, many young people died using Quaaludes. When ‘ludes hit our campus it was like a fog drifting over the dorms and apartment buildings.

    PBS did a great documentary on The War on Drugs a few years back. They interviewed the head of the DEA. He talked about how when Quaaludes became such an epidemic, they went to the manufacturer and asked that it be taken off the market. Knowing how things work they were probably either pressured or given “we owe you a solid.” Anyway, they did agree. The UK also took similar measures. The Quaalude epidemic went quickly away.

    Fast forward 20 or so years. Meth has become a much worse scourge. The DEA went to drug manufacturers and asked for the same Quaalude deal. The companies said, “WAIT A MINUTE, Quaalude was different. There are many producers of ephedrine, and it’s in hundreds of over the counter cold medications. The having to sign for ephedrine was the compromise. Feel better? No, I didn’t think so. But, that’s the way it happened.

  6. seamus, No Breaking Bad spoilers!! I don’t want to stop anyone from discussing, but I have some catching up to do. Please just preface your comment w/ “Spoiler Alert.” Thanks.

  7. AY and other commenters,
    Our end of the state has been a hotbed of home meth labs. The Sheriff’s Department busted a half dozen recently within easy walking distance from my house, all on one night. Requiring OTC meds such as Sudafed to be behind the counter and ID required to purchase it has slowed the manufacture of meth down some, but as far as I can see, not enough to make a major difference. If any agency has collected statistics on the number of meth labs before and after making cold and decongestant medications harder to buy, I have not seen it.

    All past attempts at controlling stuff only creates black markets and drives prices up. As has been pointed out, anything a factory can make, can also be made by someone with knowledge of the relevant science. It’s just not as safe most of the time. Prohibition and high taxes on liquor created a criminal class where none existed before. Prohibition gave us the Mafia. High taxes on liquor gave us the moonshine industry.

    The Mafia and its impact on our society does not need to be discussed. However, no one knows how many people have died or been sickened by lead poisoning from moonshine, after ‘shiners discovered an old car radiator made a great condenser for distilling whiskey. Of course, a radiator has a LOT of lead solder in it. What was the cost of that?

    At any rate, both economics and human psychology are at play, and if people want something badly enough, they will find a way to get it, and there will always be people willing to sell it to them.

  8. AY,

    My thoughts exactly. 10 oz. bottles seems like really inefficient purchasing when you get it by the gallon almost anywhere that sells bulk paint and refinishing supplies.

  9. More people are killed and kill others by what these Pharmacies are selling legally. Pharma, Alcohol, and Tobacco. What a ruse, get Americans addicted to Pharma medicate huge portions of the population on mood altering. mood enhancing Drugs meanwhile call nail polish remover dangerous. There is a huge threat to national security when these mood altered people cannot get there Pharma in some sort of a disaster will make for a nightmare.

  10. What part of this seems stupid when you can buy lager quantities at a lumber yard….

  11. SteveFlorman. Firstly, I do sympathize w/ both yours and bfmike’s plight. And, anyone who knows me here will verify I DEPISE the war on drugs and being libertarian, I am ALWAYS wary of regulation. Please read what I wrote. I acknowledge production is still ample, as there is always supply where there is demand. Steve and Mike, as I said, what this regulation of ephedrine has accomplished is putting the amateur producer out of biz. The meth head who decides to cook a batch for his use and some cash. Those amateurs have killed their own families, neighbors, and themselves by not knowing what the f@ck they were doing. My wife, a retired Federal PO, worked a case where an amateur meth cooker ended up killing his wife and child in a meth explosion. He suffered severe burns but was prosecuted after recovering. Oh, you and I paid for his medical care. The scourge of amateur cookers got so bad in some states that it became required for sellers of a residence to sign affidavits saying the house they were selling wasn’t used for meth production. I had to sign one in Minnesota when I sold some rental property a few years back. A pretty stupid regulation, on this one I’ll agree, but it shows you what a plague this was. I am not a moron. I know much more on this topic. However, I feel no compulsion to throw an invective your way since I truly empathize w/ your thoughts and emotion.

  12. The regulation of ephedrine was righteous and effective.

    My temptation is to say that you, sir, are a goddamned moron. However, I think your followup sentence pretty much covers it: those regulations did nothing to slow the manufacture of methamphetamine, not even raise the street price. All they did was add an unnecessary, cumbersome, and intrusive layer of regulation to the lives of allergy sufferers, of whom there are a lot more than there are meth users. It also gave cops an excuse to exercise their lack of judgment by arresting people who buy too much cold medicine. In no sense were those regulations either “righteous” or “effective” unless you look at the police state as “righteous” and more government intrusion into, and tracking of, Americans’ personal habits as “effective.”

  13. “The regulation of ephedrine was righteous and effective.”

    I don’t know how effective it was but there are costs.

    I occasionally have asthma. Prior to the drug hysteria I could buy products like Bronkaid Mist which invariably resolved my minor problem.

    The last time I had an attack, the pharmacy shelves had been cleared of the two products I depended upon.

    I spent about 8 hours in the emergency room and ran up a bill of nearly $1,000.

    I realize this incident speaks as much to issues related to the practice of medicine in this country as it does to drug policy.

    But I do know personally one small part of the cost of the war on drugs. And I have to wonder how really useful and effective removing over the counter medications like inhalers could be.

    BTW, if any yahoo planning a cook was wondering where to get acetone, now they know.

  14. We need more baby sitters. Yeah, we need a Department of Public Babysitting, come on Obama, get your ass in gear and protect us from ourselves.

    Stupid is as stupid does. If I want acetone, I’ll go to the hardware store or a foreign country. (It’s used to clean black streaks off boat hulls, among other things, anyone who drinks it or makes drugs deserves the death they will eventually get from being poisoned…)

  15. Possibly this is a “holier than thou” ploy in the Drug Wars between CVS and Walgreens. The regulation of ephedrine was righteous and effective. It certainly has not stopped meth production, where there is a demand there will be supply. But, it has stopped the widespread manufacturing by people w/o the knowledge and panache of Walter White. A lot of meth now comes from Mexico, where you can buy just about anything in a farmacia.

  16. You can buy quarts of acetone, MEK, toluene, VM&P naptha, IPA, Ethanol (denatured), etc, at Lowe’s and Home Depot. So you can make Meth, make Molotov Cocktails, or go blind all in one day. But only significantly the latter two. It takes a lot of acetone to make meth

    Yeah, CVS has just hit the lowest mark on the “Drug War” moron scale. But, hey, it was on TV so it must be real.

    BTW, I’d be more worried if they were selling anhydrous ammonia or Iodine crystals and red phosphorous, those are the difficult chemicals to procure for Meth production (two different processes).

  17. Just to be clear, CVS is imposing this policy on nail polish REMOVER, not nail polish itself (see the link you posted). There’s a big difference between the two. Nail polish comes in small quantities and is mostly shellac and pigment. Remover is almost pure chemicals and it’s more akin to paint stripper. It is also available in much larger quantities (think 12-20 oz at a time). So the policy is not going to require 10-year-olds going to slumber parties to show ID when they want to buy a new bottle of hot pink nail polish.

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