CVS Restricts Sales of Nail Polish Remover to Curb Meth Makers, Kinda Sorta

PHOTO: Nail varnish splatters

Getty Images/Rubberball

This week, CVS attempted to ban the sale of nail polish remover to customers under 18, requiring customers to show state or federal ID to complete a purchase. This was to stop "meth heads" using acetone -– the main ingredient in nail polish remover -- to cook up methamphetamine. CVS announced plans to roll this out nationwide... and then suddenly retracted it. No one was mad, exactly, but there was a mass head-scratching at this strange flip-flop.

Granted, methamphetamine is a terrible drug which causes huge amounts of harm. But does limiting minors' access to nail polish remover really make a difference?

Mike DeAngelis, Director of CVS Public Relations, said the company's initial limits went into effect due to "certain local regulations."

CVS's move to ban nail polish remover echoed the 2005 Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act, which restricted the sales of drugs that contain pseudoephedrine, a key ingredient in meth production. Sounds like a good idea, but in reality this means that people buying Sudafed now need to be over 18 and provide U.S. identification. They are limited to purchasing 3.6 grams a day, with a maximum 9 grams a month. That's about six 24-dose boxes.

While acetone is often used to make meth, it's not as tightly regulated as pseudoephedrine. "There's no DEA regulation on over-the-counter acetone sales," said Drug Enforcement Administration spokesman Rusty Payne. "You'd need a lot more than one bottle to make meth." Payne declined to share how much you would need.

"In the eyes of the federal government, nail polish remover is not regulated," Payne added. "CVS made a business decision to do this on their own."

That -- and the public stir on social media -- help explain why CVS reversed itself last night, saying it would enforce acetone-product limits on customers in only the three states (Hawaii,California and Virginia) where it is mandatory. The change starts today.

"In most states we will no longer require customers to present an ID to purchase these products, including nail polish remover," CVS's DeAngelis said. However, he cautioned, "Additional policy changes regarding purchase limits and age requirements may be implemented in the future."

They also tweeted their policy change.

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