But Cooper credited a new electronic tracking of medications containing the key ingredient in meth - pseudoephedrine - for helping stop illegal sales and for leading law enforcement to meth makers.
"Prevention efforts have helped hold down the number of larger meth labs but small ones are still very dangerous," Cooper said at a news conference Tuesday. "We need more law enforcement, better public awareness, and continued use of technology to fight this crime."
Meth lab busts involving the SBI climbed to 460 in 2012 - up from 344 the year before. Cooper said most of the 2012 cases involved "one pot" meth labs. That's where criminals often use a plastic soda bottle to cook their concoctions.
"Meth labs may be getting smaller, but that doesn't mean that they're any less dangerous," Cooper said. "If you see a potential meth lab - and it could be something as simple as a plastic soda bottle and some tubing - report it to local law enforcement right away."
A legislative committee in North Carolina voted unanimously last month for lawmakers to consider a law requiring a prescription for cold medicines containing pseudoephedrine to help crack down on the meth problem.
Current North Carolina law limits purchases of products that contain pseudoephedrine to no more than two packages at once and no more than three packages within 30 days. Purchasers must show a photo ID and sign a log. The law also requires that all pills containing pseudoephedrine and ephedrine be placed behind a pharmacy counter.
Meth labs often lead behind a toxic meth that can be extremely hazardous to public health. They can also cause fires and explosions.