SEFFNER — Behind long glass counters at Alpa Chino Hookah Lounge and Smoke Shop are Zippo lighters, colored glass bowls, hookah pipes, tall bongs, grinders, eCigarettes, vapor pipes, scales and Marlboro reds.
But the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office says the store at the corner of Pine Street and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard has been selling illegal synthetic drugs under the counter.
In March, deputies began serving shopkeepers and owners — including at Alpa Chino — with warnings. Wednesday, deputies passed out their first fines.
Each carries a $500 fine per packet sold. Capt. Kyle Cockream said agencies involved in the crackdown are issuing more than $1 million in fines to 10 different retailers in this sweep alone.
In February, Hillsborough commissioners banned the possession, use, sale, distribution, production and manufacture of synthetic drugs, also known by the brands Spice or K2. The ordinance made retailers take the drugs off shelves, officials said Wednesday, but did not put an end to the sale of the drugs.
"It's been driven down like any other illegal drug trade," said Kevin Jackson, a chief investigator with the county's Consumer Protection Agency. "Cocaine's been illegal as long as we've known, and it hasn't gone away."