Yes, We’re Now Getting Carded For Nail Polish Remover

(Rachel Rohr/WBUR)

(Rachel Rohr/WBUR)

It was a routine trip to CVS: vitamins and nail polish remover. At self-checkout, I scanned in the nail polish remover and something odd happened.

There was an error message on the screen and a slip of paper printed out that read, “Products containing acetone/iodine cannot be purchased at the self checkout. Please see associate for assistance.”

The saleslady overseeing self-checkout sprang into action and walked over to the register clucking, “New state laws, driving us crazy.” Another sales associate chimed in, “Meth,” and shook her head.

The saleslady asked for my ID. I pulled out my driver’s license. To my surprise, she scanned it into the computer.

How long had it been since I’d bought nail polish remover? Two years? Three? How did I miss this? I’ve been buying nail polish remover since I was probably 13, and painting my nails since I was 8 (quite skillfully, according to my mom).

“What happens if you don’t have a driver’s license?” I asked.

The sales associate shrugged, shook her head and said, “Can’t buy it.” My 13-year-old self cringed.

When I got home, I googled around and couldn’t find any state or federal laws pertaining to retail sales of acetone or iodine.

I also noticed that my new bottle of nail polish remover was considerably larger than my empty bottle. The CVS brand had grown from 6 ounces to 10, which seemed a little ironic under the circumstances.

Emails to the state and federal government turned up little information.

Massachusetts Department of Public Health spokeswoman Anne Roach wrote: “It is not a state law, regulation or recommendation. It may be a store policy.”

U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) spokesman Christopher Kelly replied:

“We are not aware of any FDA specific regulation of iodine or acetone sales other than those generally in place for all active or inactive ingredients in approved products.”

He suggested I ask CVS whether the policy was “related to decreasing access to acetone to those under 18 because of increasing reports on the risks associated with youths ‘huffing’ acetone. There have been several deaths reported doing this.”

(Rachel Rohr/WBUR)

(Rachel Rohr/WBUR)

CVS spokesman Michael DeAngelis offered some clarity. He acknowledged it’s a store policy – not dictated by federal law, but guided by it. He wrote:

“We are in the process of implementing this chainwide, beginning a few weeks ago. We had already been requiring ID in states where you must be at least 18 to purchase acetone products.”

He referred me to the definitions section of the Controlled Substances Act, which categorizes acetone and iodine as “list II chemicals.”

As a spokesman for the Drug Enforcement Administration put it to me over the phone, “list II chemicals” have many legitimate uses, but can be used to make controlled substances. And retail sales of list II chemicals are not regulated by the DEA in any special way.

In this case, acetone and iodine are – as the CVS sales associate rightly remarked – used to make meth.

So why would this years-old categorization result in a new policy?

DeAngelis replied, “We regularly review our policies and procedures and update or revise them as necessary.”

He also clarified that there’s no actual age limit for nail polish remover purchases. However, the photo ID would seem to draw the line at anyone not old enough to have a driver’s license.

So that’s it kids. You can buy your nail polish at CVS, but you’ll have to buy your nail polish remover at Walgreens. (It’s cool, I checked.)

Readers, reactions? Do you welcome or question this new tactic in fighting the looming threat posed by nail polish remover?  


Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
  • 2big2failinscranton

    for starters cvs PHARMIST are tools i was getting a prescription for a Narcotic drs name was RAYMOND JOSEPH well one girl entered it as JOSEPH RAYMOND so they callled my docter informed him i was getting same script from TWO DOCTERS …..are they that stupid ? you know how long it took me to clear up?TOO LONG

  • What Is Happening America?

    This is total BS. Now CVS feels it needs to Police people for things that aren’t even dictated by Federal Law. WTF…and what next??!!

  • fun bobby

    this kind of thing is crazy I saw a guy get carded for brake cleaner at walmart the other day.

  • BlueNH

    Nail polish and remover are extremely unhealthy products. I am disgusted to see babies and toddlers wearing nail polish. Almost every teenage girl wears nail polish these days. Endocrine disrupters are destroying our children. What happened to natural beauty? The beauty industry is making our young girls into Barbie Dolls with poisoned bodies.

    • Sarah

      That isn’t the point of the article.

  • debbieb97

    I take two controlled substances and I could fill the page with what I have gone through to fill those prescriptions, monthly I’d like to add. I thought the whole cold medicine thing would eventually blow over, wrong. Now nail polish remover, this is unbelivable. I feel like the bad guys are winning, somehow. Between retail stores and the airports it just keeps getting worse.

    • fun bobby

      fascism is on the march in america

  • Joe Sacerdos

    I went to CVS a few weeks ago to buy a home “HIV Test.” When I got to the checkout they wanted to see my ID. When I asked why they needed my ID they told me that I had to be at least 18 to buy this … which makes no sense to begin with. Since I am 59 I said, “Do I look like I”m under 18?” She said “store policy, I’m only doing what I’m told to do.” I said, “I’m buying an HIV test! I’m paying cash for it because I don’t want any record of this.” She said, “State Law!!!!!” Is it? Or is it just “CVS Policy?”

    • fun bobby

      sue them!

  • Sallie Driscoll

    i live in maryland (not sure where you purchased your acetone from) and i did get carded for buying acetone at walgreens. i don’t usually buy it at retail chains, but instead buy from somewhere like sally’s, because i go through so much of it. i didn’t think much of it at the time, but i figured it had something to do with huffing. thanks for the information

  • Guest

    This is ridiculous. I’m shopping somewhere else.

  • David F

    Well since it’s a store policy there is a very simple solution. Shop elsewhere.

    • fun bobby

      until they all have this policy

  • Tracy Anne Hart

    Between Breaking Bad and laws like this I am learning more and more about how to cook meth.

    • fun bobby

      every thing you need is at walgreens.

  • Babs

    OMG! this just happened to me today so I went to another CVS just to be sure. Yup! gotta scan my drivers license to buy nail polish remover. And BTW you can’t buy Claritin and acetone polish remover at the same time. The pharmacist at the second CVS said it was a DEA rule. Sad that I have to start going elsewhere for my “illegal” purchase of polish remover. And I better remember when my allergies kick up to change my buying habits.

    • cvspharmacist

      you can buy claritin and nail polish remover, just not claritin-d because it has the sudafed in it and if you buy it together (they wont let u make 2 separate transactions either because you are still getting it at the same time-employees can get fired for allowing you to do so) it looks ‘sketchy’-since they are used together to make meth. cvs might be the only one with this rule right now (not sure if thats the case) but i guarantee this will become federal law soon.

      • fun bobby

        I wonder how far things will go before people actually do more than make indignant posts online. after all these are the same people that voluntarily allow federal agents to touch their junk to travel domestically

  • HelenL1

    The policies are starting to get on my nerves. I was sick recently (can’t make it to the store sick) and I wanted one of my kids to buy cold medicine, they weren’t allowed. My kids are 16 and 14. I had to wait for an adult to bring me something after work and was miserable the whole day. Those same kids could go into my bathroom closet and get the cold medicine if they really wanted to. The policies and laws are stupid. Don’t make the rest of us suffer for bad parenting. My kids don’t huff anything.

  • eaj

    This just happened to me as I was buying 3 bottles of nail polish remover. I started to laugh…are you serious…. will nail polish itself be next . Maybe we should ID purchases for pressure cookers and fertilizer!!!!

    • Empty Nest

      Since 2002 suppliers already record your ID when purchasing ammonia nitrate fertilizer.

  • hjc24

    The first commenter makes a good point – just switch to non-acetone nail polish remover. It’s better for you anyways!

    • Joe Sacerdos

      Yes, but that’s NOT the point. The point is the “Nanny State.”

      • hjc24

        But in this case it’s not the state, it’s the company.

        • fun bobby

          The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.

        • Hush

          It’s the nanny state that’s producing this mentality.

  • jayhoward

    This really is stupid. You already have enough chemicals under the sink or in a shed to do real damage and they scan this stuff? pool chlorine, gasoline, bleach and so on…recently they made self striking wooden matches illegal in all of America…if you want strike anywhere matches you have to go to Canada. It’s ridiculous.

    • fun bobby

      those have been banned in MA for some time now.

  • No longer a CBS shopper

    Ridiculous. If its not regulated by the government, why does a store feel the need? Shop somewhere else. I will.

  • Lebowski113

    Give someone enough time to figure it out, and anything can be mixed with SOMETHING and made into a drug or something dangerous. Anything. Let’s just start handing out permission slips for tic-tacs, shoe polish and everything else. In fact, “Shopping Licenses” (for a taxable fee of course) to permit you three trips per day to three different stores of your choice within your zip code of residence (or four trips outside your zip code, but still limited to thee stores). Licenses are non transferable and must be accompanied by a valid photo ID for admittance to any retail establishment. Minors under the age of 18 (14 if his/her parent checks that “Farmer” box on his 1040) may accompany a parent during the hours of 6am to 10pm MF, 6am to 11pm Sat, no shopping on Sundays except in CA (Orange County excepted) and Vermont.

  • DaGimp

    I find this policy of CVS disturbing. Walgreens a while back surprised me when I went to get my medicines. All were ready except my pain medicine. I have severe nerve pain from a botched medical procedure. I self regulate my usage and my doctor monitors the time periods between refills. What I use has been re-regulated so many times in the last few years I am now required to go to the doctors office in person to pick up a new prescription when I need them. Ok that’s the government. All of a sudden Walgreens says I have to wait an additional hour for verification before I can get the pain meds. Sounds reasonable, make sure it is the doctor’s prescription and not some junkies backyard printing press . Except I had brought inn the prescripton 24 hrs earlier . When I mentioned it to them, I get new local law. Never heard anything about it. I later checked with other pharmacies and they have no idea what I am talking about. all the Walgreens manager and get new store policy. Why? he doesn’t know. I still don’t but no longer use their pharmacy’s. When private business adds a new layer off so called security on top of what’s government mandated it panders to the ultra conservatives in this country who basically want their idea of suspicious activity observed and reported. Sounds like the old East Germany communists to me..
    Hey criminals are criminals, and will always find ways to get what they want. I am just tired of these fear mongers and their zero tolerance mentality making the average citizen pay for an extremely small minority. Meth scourge? Get real. The number 1 drug in this country is alcohol by a huge margine. Ah! but is legal and therefore taxable and they can raise that tax on a local level anytime they need to cover a budget shortfall and none of us care, after all it’s just a Sin tax. Hey illegal drug makers. They won’t pay the politicians tax on their profits , so kill them all , and remember it’s your patriotic duty to put up with the bloated. regulations that are making our everyday lives more expensive and miserable. CVS? Just go someplace else to shop . Then email corporate and tell them why. Nothing like falling profits to make them change a stupid policy

    • fun bobby

      the meth is legal too. you can buy every ingredient right there at walgreens who happily profits from its sale along with the rest of the ingredients and their legal sellers

  • Sandwich Chick

    I was at CVS today and was going thru self check buying a few items including nail polish remover when I had the same thing happen. I was in a rush to get my kids to an appointment so I wasn’t going to get into another line. I of course couldn’t resist making a smart a$$ comment saying that I guess my meth lab would have to wait. In the end the clerk who oversees the self check let it slide this time and I was on my merry way without showing ID and the remover to get my new OPI sand polish off my nails! I think it is ridiculous that we can’t buy it at CVS without having our ID swiped! I will make sure to shop elsewhere. When will this insane invasion of privacy stop? Next we won’t be able to buy a six pack of soda or a donut without ID because of the obesity epidemic.

    • suzan

      I saw this new thing on tv the other day and I just had to laugh! Does CVS realize this is hurting their business? People don’t want, nor should they have to share their private identification information over a stupid bottle of polish remover! I read lots of stuff on nail art websites, and someone mentioned somewhere that she purchased her acetone by the gallon at Home Depot. I looked on line and you can buy it at all sorts of hardware stores! Even my friendly Sally Beauty Supply down the road sells it by the gallon! I do my nails 2-3 times/week, so, I go through lots of it in a months time. I rarely shop at CVS. After this silly move on their part, I will be sure to not go there for sure

  • Michele Martin

    I guess I am quite happy now that I use non acetone nail polish remover. :)

  • Nail Color Fanatic

    I had the same experience at CVS yesterday and it boggled me so much that I needed to research the reason today. It has been a long time since I bought bottles of nail polish remover, and when I did, It was the little round jar with the sponge in it that I bought from Target.

    I was finally running out of it, so when I went to drop off some prescriptions at CVS I visited the nail polish section, as I always do at any store, and to my surprise, nail polish removers were buy 1, get 1 50% off! I was pretty excited, as most nail polish fanatics would be, so I picked up the two bottles I wanted.

    When I finally made my way to the checkout, She sales lady scanned all my stuff and help the nail polish removers till the end because she explained that those would need an I.D. to be sold. Not thinking anything of it, I pulled out my driver’s license so it was ready for her.

    I thought she was just going to verify my age, but instead she scanned it into the computer system. I was caught a little off guard at first, but I figured, if that’s their policy, then fine. I just wanted to get my stuff so I can go home. But then the computer was taking a very long time to “verify”, as she stated. Then she tells me that It “wasn’t approved for sale. The system timed out and it’s been having problems all morning.” At first, I thought she was talking about my whole purchase, but then she said it was just the removers and slid the two bottles away behind the counter, like I was going to snatch them and run, and says, “I’m sorry but I cannot sell these to you.”

    The whole “systems being down thing” seemed like an excuse not to sell them to me. I figured it was because I had an Arabic last name from my father’s side, but didn’t know for sure. Then I though that maybe I should’ve just bought 1 bottle, but that defeats the purpose of the buy 1, get 1 50% off sale. So I felt very disturbed when I left. Now that I know that this is occurring at CVS frequently, I will not be buying nail polish remover from them anymore! I wish I hadn’t let the lady scan my I.D., but I guess lesson learned. Back to good “ole Target I go!!!

    • fun bobby

      perhaps a class action law suit is in order

  • Jess Moore

    I also agree with SBA. I absolutely would not let them put my license info into their system. Not only because the security isn’t airtight (although that would be a big factor), but because I feel like it’s an infringement on my privacy. I know a lot of people are thinking “who cares, I have nothing to hide”. That’s not the point. It’s the point that, usually with this sort of thing, it becomes ‘give them an inch and they’ll take a mile’. What might start as monitoring nail polish remover, can quickly warp into them keeping dibs on all customer activity. We have constitutional rights… it’s bad enough our own government breeches these rights, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to let a business do it!

    My first question would of been “what steps do you take if you think a customer is buying too much polish remover?” Do they simply refuse to sell you the product? Or do they alert the authorities? And then what?
    I don’t really shop at CVS much. But this type of thing has quickly taken me from the category of ‘one-in-awhile-shopper’ to ‘does not shop there at all’

    • Sarah at Starlight Radiance

      It’s the same thing with pseudoephedrine that they track because of people that make meth with it. The acetone ID check just isn’t required by the government yet.

      But about companies watching customer activity… I’m pretty sure they’re already doing that based on your CVS card you use everytime you checkout. It’s just that it hasn’t been reported to the government “at this point.” At least that we know of.

  • Amanda

    As a nail blogger, I go through acetone like its water. I won’t be shopping CVS anymore.

    • Alyssa

      Whats your blog? I am a nail blogger as well, but we don’t have any rules like this yet in Canada. This is absolutely outrageous! Why do meth heads get to take stuff away from us!?

      My blog is Btw. :)


  • SBA

    Funny, I had the same surprise block today in CVS. I was about to show cashier my id, but she said she needed to scan it — I refused! This makes no sense — are they going to have police knock on your door to see if you had any contact with a newly found meth lab within a 200 mile radius??? I will not put my driver license info in anyone computer from a self checkout stand in CVS. Once it’s in digital form, anyone can access if the security is not air tight.

    • Anonymous

      And let’s be honest, no one does computer or Internet security right. No one. You’re right for not adding your information to yet another insecure database.