Boston Herald

Nip ban one more blow to retailers

If the City Council has its way, Boston will join a host of other Bay State cities and towns issuing a last call for nip bottles.


As the Herald reported, the nip order comes from City Councilor Ricardo Arroyo, the district councilor from Hyde Park. In his neighborho­od, some locals have been seeing red at what they’ve said are thousands of discarded nips.

But the issue goes beyond litter for Arroyo.

“The data is clear that in cities that have banned the sale of nips there is a significan­t and positive impact on public health,” Arroyo said in a statement. “We should put the wellbeing of our communitie­s first by banning the sale of nips in Boston as well.”

If we’re talking about banning things that can have a detrimenta­l effect on public health, shouldn’t cannabis be on the table?

In 2019, then-Gov. Charlie Baker’s administra­tion launched an impaired driving campaign. It cited data from the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security showing that cannabis was found in 175 — 31% — of the 572 drivers involved in fatal crashes from 2013 to 2017. Yet the cannabis industry continues to thrive.

Arroyo cites a Commonweal­th Magazine article that suggested a correlatio­n between Chelsea passing the rule in 2020 and the number of alcohol-related ambulance calls dropping.

Was that from the ban on nip sales, or the combinatio­n of cutting off the sales of “quarters,” the 100 ml bottles that are one size up?

If Boston nixes the nip, citing trash concerns, wouldn’t that give rise to the sale of quarter pints? The city could ban those as well, of course, doubling down on efforts to save the public from itself.

All the while giving retail liquor stores a kick in the teeth. The same Commonweal­th Magazine article that cited fewer incidents of public drunkennes­s in Chelsea included the views of Robert Mellion, executive director and general counsel for the state’s Package Store Associatio­n. He said the ban unfairly hurt businesses, with 50- and 100-milliliter nips accounting for as much as 10% of sales at Chelsea liquor stores.

This isn’t the economic climate to deal another blow to retail stores. And while lack of access to nip bottles and quarters closes off those avenues for quick and surreptiti­ous drinking by those who indulge, it will do nothing to stop those who hide liquor in opaque water bottles — the go-to for stealth imbibing.

There is a trash problem with nip bottles, no question. And the bottles are too small to be caught in recycling sorting equipment. So why not incentiviz­e the proper disposal of nips as is done with syringes?

Discarded syringes are not just unsightly, but also dangerous. The Community Syringe Redemption Program was launched in Boston in 2020. The mobile program offers a cash “buyback” to encourage safe disposal of syringes. The program has collected millions of them.

Encouragin­g those who buy nips to collect them, bag them and turn them into to designated trash drop-offs, for a cash incentive, would take a huge bite out of the litter situation.

But it will take a lot more than finagling the size of liquor bottles for sale to end alcohol abuse.

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