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State To Monitor Cold Medicine Purchases

In the last five years, the number of meth lab incidents in North Carolina has dropped by a third and holding steady now at around 200 incidents a year. Attorney General Roy Cooper credits new laws that limit the sale of certain cold medicines that contain the key ingredient for making meth. WFAE's Julie Rose reports the attorney general is now working to close a loophole in that law. There's a crack down on Smurfs coming. That's what law enforcement officers call the enterprising new crop of meth-cookers who game the system to buy more than the two-package-a-day limit of cold medicine that contains pseudoephedrine. North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper says it's a growing problem. "A person will go to the Target, Walmart and Riteaid and buy just under the legal limit at all of these different drug stores so they can accumulate enough to make methamphetamine," says Cooper. In the next few months, Cooper says North Carolina will have a monitoring system in place to track how much pseudoephedrine people are buying. Pharmacies in Tennessee, South Carolina and Georgia will also be part of the database. If "smurfing" persists, Cooper says the state might go a step further and automatically stop the transaction if a customer is found to have purchased pseudoephedrine elsewhere that day. Two states - Oregon and Mississippi - have made pseudoephedrine a prescription drug that requires doctor's approval to purchase. Attorney General Cooper says he doesn't see the need for that yet in North Carolina. It'll depend on how well the new monitoring program works to limit meth lab proliferation across the state.