Meth: Missouri Launches Anti-Smurfing Campaign to Curb Sale of Medicines to Cooks

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Missouri, the Meth Capital of the United States, this week launched a campaign against purchasing cold and allergy medicines and selling them to methamphetamine cooks.

It's the "anti-smurfing" initiative.

"Missouri law enforcement officials will tell you that smurfing is one of the biggest challenges they face in the battle against methamphetamine production and abuse," Attorney General Chris Koster says in a statement. "With the Anti-Smurfing Campaign, Missouri leaders are coming together with the manufactures of over-the-counter cold and allergy medicines to send an unmistakable message: if you're a buying this product for a meth cook, you are committing a serious criminal offense and could end up behind bars."

In a press release filled with smurf(-ing) quotes from officials across the state, the attorney general's office says that it will be putting up signs at retailers, which make clear that "smurfing is a serious criminal offense and an integral part of the methamphetamine production process."

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Officials and industry professionals argue that smurfing -- which specifically refers to the sale of cold or allergy medicines with pseudoephedrine to meth cooks -- fuels the state's meth problem.

The attorney general, alongside pharmaceutical and retail leaders in the state, formally launched the public awareness campaign in a Kansas City news conference yesterday. The initiative is a public-private partnership developed by a national group called the Consumer Healthcare Products Association -- and Missouri retailers can participate on a voluntary basis. This association has tested its anti-smurfing posters to "ensure that they communicate impactful messaging without deterring legitimate consumers," the attorney general's office says.

In addition to retail and pharmaceutical reps, the Jackson County prosecutor's office is also a partner in the effort; these law enforcement officials argue that it's common practice for meth manufacturers to have others purchase pseudoephedrine for them.

The Missouri Pharmacy Association and the Missouri Retailers Association have already begun giving out anti-smurfing signs to interested business across the state.

Below are some examples of the campaign message, followed by Koster's full press release.

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Continue for more materials from the campaign and the full announcement.

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Here's the full press release.

Attorney General Koster Joins Retailers, Pharmacists to Launch Anti-Smurfing Public Awareness Campaign

Kansas City, MO-Attorney General Chris Koster joined representatives from the Missouri Pharmacy Association, the Missouri Retailers Association, the Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA) and other leaders to announce the launch of a statewide Anti-Smurfing Campaign. The voluntary educational campaign is aimed at increasing public awareness about the criminal enterprise known as "smurfing" -- the practice of purchasing cold and allergy medicines containing pseudoephedrine (PSE) to sell to methamphetamine cooks. The leaders formally launched the campaign today during a news conference at Marsh's Sun Fresh in Kansas City.

The Anti-Smurfing Campaign informs consumers through signage displayed at the point of sale that smurfing is a serious criminal offense and an integral part of the methamphetamine production process. As a result, the simple act of buying certain cold or allergy product for a stranger can fuel our state's methamphetamine problem.

"Missouri law enforcement officials will tell you that smurfing is one of the biggest challenges they face in the battle against methamphetamine production and abuse," said Attorney General Koster. "With the Anti-Smurfing Campaign, Missouri leaders are coming together with the manufactures of over-the-counter cold and allergy medicines to send an unmistakable message: if you're a buying this product for a meth cook, you are committing a serious criminal offense and could end up behind bars."

"Public education is critical to make real progress against meth cooks and dealers," Koster said. "The Anti-Smurfing Campaign is not a silver bullet, but I am confident it will make those who consider buying products to help a meth cook think twice before making an unlawful purchase."

The public-private partnership was developed by the Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA), a national association representing the makers of over-the-counter medicines, and will be carried out by Missouri retailers on a voluntary basis. CHPA tested anti-smurfing posters to ensure that they communicate impactful messaging without deterring legitimate consumers.

"On Wednesday, Missouri becomes the third state to launch the Anti-Smurfing Campaign," said Carlos Gutiérrez, senior director and head of state government affairs for CHPA. "Last year, elected officials, law enforcement officers and retailers came together to launch this important program in Alabama and Kentucky. With the Anti-Smurfing Campaign, leaders of different political persuasions and different backgrounds are putting aside their differences and taking meaningful action against smurfing. We commend Attorney General Koster, the Missouri Pharmacy Association and the Missouri Retail Association for taking the lead on this important campaign. We are hopeful that more states will join this effort in the coming weeks."

"The Jackson County Prosecutor's Office has seen this practice of meth manufacturers using others to purchase pseudoephedrine to continue their illegal activities," said Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker. "The public needs to know the serious consequences from this activity. I commend Attorney General Koster for leading this public-awareness campaign, which I'm sure will have a major impact."

"On behalf of the members of the Missouri Pharmacy Association, we are excited to join with Attorney General Koster, CHPA and the Missouri Retailers Association in launching the Anti-Smurfing Campaign," said Ron Fitzwater, chief executive officer of the Missouri Pharmacy Association. "Missourians might not realize it, but our pharmacists are on the front lines in the battle against meth production. We are committed to do everything possible to make sure pseudoephedrine-based products are purchased by consumers who need them for relief, not criminals."

"The Missouri Retailers Association strongly supports this important initiative," said David Overfelt, president of the Missouri Retailers Association. "I am confident that this public awareness campaign will force people to think seriously about the moral and criminal consequences associated with smurfing. In order to make real progress against meth criminals, leaders have to work through their differences and put forward constructive solutions. That's what this initiative is all about."

The Missouri Pharmacy Association and the Missouri Retailers Association have already begun distributing Anti-Smurfing signage to retailers across the state. For more information on the campaign, please visit Meth-KnowTheConsequences.Org.

Send feedback and tips to the author. Follow Sam Levin on Twitter at @SamTLevin.

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