NOTE: This story has been updated to clarify that Massachusetts has given cities and towns the option to implement a ban on nips, but there are no plans for a statewide ban.
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The miniature bottles of alcohol that line liquor store counters could become a thing of the past if newly introduced legislation is passed.
Rep. David Bennett, D-Warwick, said the bill, which would ban the sale of any sealable bottle, can, jar, or carton that hold less than 100 milliliters of alcohol, aims to reduce single-use plastics. He said “nips” are contributing to the state’s litter issue.
“The biggest problem I’m seeing is they’re everywhere. You cannot walk down a street and not find at least 10, 20 of them, and the thing is, they go into our sewers,” he said Monday. “They’re just an eyesore.”
He said another problem is that nips can be used for illegal activity.
“The nips are used to drink illegally while driving,” Bennett added. “They’re also used to smuggle into bar rooms so you don’t have to pay the full price for a mixed drink.”
While his bill is good for bar owners, it’s not going over well with some liquor store owners.
“A good half of my population comes in for nips,” said Susan Kelliher, who owns Em’s Liquor Store on Park Avenue in Cranston along with her son.
The Kellihers have owned the store for three years, and she said they’re struggling to make a profit, but sales of the mini alcohol bottles help.
“It’s kind of a constant flowing in, flowing out, grab the beer, have some nips. Most people buy nips,” she said. “It would be like taking Tylenol out of a drugstore, you know? It’s part of the business.”
Kelliher said a solution could be to offer a 50-cent deposit to encourage people to return the bottles instead of tossing them. But Bennett said that responsibility would lie in the store owner’s hands, and the ones he has talked to have said they don’t want to deal with the deposit.
“They said it would be a hassle giving people money, and they’d have to buy stamps,” he explained. “You’d have to get them all stamped to show that they came in after the law.”
When customers got wind of the bill, some said they’d be sad to see nips taken out of liquor stores.
“I don’t want to see them go. They’re convenient, they’re easy,” said Mike Foley of Providence. “I understand the pollution, but we’ve got to find a way to minimize the pollution, I guess, and keep the nips.”
Other nip-lovers already have some ideas brewing on how to help with the litter problem.
“Million-dollar invention: edible nip. Drink it, then you can just eat it. No pollution, problem solved!” said Steve Lyons of Providence.
In Massachusetts, Attorney General Maura Healey cleared the way for cities and towns to ban the sale of nips. Wareham and Falmouth have since done so, while a proposal by Attleboro Mayor Paul Heroux was rejected by the city council.