Letter from the Editor 

Boy, how about that Breaking Bad finale? Wow. Poor Walt. Tough way to go, but that was some riveting television, right?

At least that's what I was told by almost everyone I know. I didn't watch the final season of Breaking Bad because I missed the boat on the earlier seasons and I couldn't get motivated to catch up via marathon watching sessions.

It's a classic First World problem: You missed the first season, or three, of Game of Thrones or Mad Men or Boardwalk Empire. All your friends are talking about the show, the critics are raving. Should you commit to catching up, or just blow it off? I've done both. I passed on The Wire and Breaking Bad; played catchup on Boardwalk Empire, Mad Men, and True Blood (which I now regret).

Some media critics and social anthropologists claim that the cable television mega-series has replaced movies and weekly network TV shows as the medium that best defines us. These programs take advantage of more relaxed cable standards for nudity, sex, violence, drug use, and profanity. What we used to have to go to the cineplex to see is now available on our own home flatscreens, complete with a handy remote to pause, slo-mo, reverse, and fast-forward the action.

These shows are what we talk about at work and with our friends. And if everybody else knows who Walter White is and you don't, well, welcome to Loserville, Skippy.

And speaking of Loserville — and meth ... A new study from the Government Accounting Office shows Tennessee is the second-leading state in the Union for meth lab busts, with 1,585 in 2012 — just behind Missouri and well ahead of third-place Indiana. But here's where the study gets interesting: Do you know how many meth lab busts there were in Mississippi in 2012? Five. That's right, five.

That's because Mississippi passed a law making any medicine containing pseudoephedrine available by prescription only. Taking Sudafed and other such over-the-counter meds off the consumer shelves basically eliminated the problem of meth production in Mississippi. Busts dropped from 950 in 2009 to five last year. A similar decline in meth lab busts occurred in Oregon, the only other state in the country where this commonsense legislation has passed.

So why don't Tennessee, Missouri, Indiana, and other heavy meth-use states pass laws that ban over-the-counter sales of pseudoephedrine meds? The answer will not shock you. It's because Big Pharma is spending big bucks to convince our legislators to keep commercial pseudoephedrine meds available over the counter in the name of "customer convenience." Not surprisingly, given who's running Nashville these days, it's a message that seems to resonate with our own intrepid lawmakers.

So it appears we may have more seasons of Breaking Bad ahead of us in Tennessee. Or is it Mad Men?

Bruce VanWyngarden
brucev@memphisflyer.com

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