Drug Paraphernalia Dilemma

Human Services Spotlight Series #21

Protecting Our Children

In February 2021, an Oldsmar resident watched a vehicle pull up to his home and the driver place a package in his mailbox. Once the vehicle left, the resident checked his mailbox and found the package was a delivery from a local smoke shop. The package contained vaping products, drug paraphernalia and a receipt in the name of his 17-year-old daughter. The minor admitted to her father that she bought the items from the smoke shop’s website using her debit card. The father filed a complaint with Pinellas County Consumer Protection. 

An investigation found the smoke shop had made 16 online sales of vaping products and drug paraphernalia to the complainant’s 17-year-old daughter between October 2020 and March 2021. As a result, Consumer Protection issued a written warning to the smoke shop for selling drug materials to an underage person in violation of the county’s drug paraphernalia ordinance. Online sales of tobacco products, including vaping supplies, are prohibited by federal law from being delivered by the U.S. Postal Service. Because of this, the smoke shop had provided delivery service within the Pinellas County area.

After the complaint, the business took steps to combat the illegal online sales and delivery of tobacco products and drug paraphernalia to minors by requiring age verification at the time of delivery and a signature from a person at least 21 years old. The shop is also working with its financial institution, Square Online, to add safeguards to the payment of online sales to ensure purchasers are legal age.

This case is a good example showing that bringing an investigation to a successful conclusion can help a violator comply with laws and ordinances. In this incident, the smoke shop received a written warning for violating a local ordinance that resulted in the business’ taking steps to ensure the violation did not happen again.

Did you know that Consumer Protection is responsible for licensing and enforcement of nine additional county ordinances? They include licensing of organizations that run bingo games and of high-prescribing health clinics and of adult-use establishments in unincorporated Pinellas. Consumer Protection also monitors towing rates, moving services, public awareness signs concerning human trafficking, possible price gouging during emergencies, charitable solicitations and fortunetelling.

Consumer Protection works to find solutions that restore fairness and ensure legal compliance. Millions of dollars have been recovered for consumers through refunds, adjustments and court-ordered restitution. The dedicated employees of Pinellas County Consumer Protection are here to help you. Investigators are available to speak with you regarding a consumer transaction at (727) 464-6200 or email at consumer@pinellas.gov.