A ban on the sale of nips was passed at October’s Town Meeting. Consumers can still purchase any type of alcohol they want. The question is where does someone’s right to drink alcohol out of a small bottle end and everyone else’s right to safe and clean streets begin? 

Opponents minimize nips’ contribution to drinking and driving while claiming that those struggling with alcohol use nips as a way to control their drinking. This is a dangerous fallacy. Anyone who has worked with those trying to overcome alcohol abuse understands that nips don’t help but rather enable more drinking, make it easier for people to do so where they should not and help drinkers hide their level of consumption from others. 

Nips are preferred by those who drink and drive in order to avoid arrest. They are a shot in a bottle that can be quickly consumed with the evidence thrown out the window.  During 4 days of Plymouth’s twice a year town wide cleanup, volunteers picked up over 14,000 nips along all our roadways with higher concentrations found in the vicinity of liquor stores. Everyone understands there is only one way they could have gotten there. 

Without providing any evidence, opponents suggest that if the more expensive half pint becomes the smallest container available, that will lead to more drinking. But years of research have demonstrated exactly the opposite: that with increased price, alcohol consumption and related problems, including drinking and driving, decrease. These include studies from such as the CDC, the American Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, the American Journal of Preventative Medicine and many more. In towns with bans, they also report seeing no increase in littered half pints.  What is truly dangerous are the number of nips that are sold in “sleeves” of up to 12 nips to a package. That is three times the amount of alcohol in a half pint, all in individual bottles that can be quickly drunk and thrown out the window!

Additional evidence that banning nips can impact on alcohol abuse comes from Chelsea, MA. Within a year after their ban was introduced in 2018, protective custodies went down from 222 to 86, ambulance and fire responses were down from 742 to 127 and alcohol related admissions to hospitals decreased.  The Chief of Police stated the ban “transformed” Chelsea and was a “game changer” and 5 years later protective custodies remain lower than prior to the ban. If half pints lead to more drinking, why such radical decreases in Chelsea?

Nips bans measurably reduce litter. Falmouth litter audits demonstrated that within a year, nips went from being the single most prevalent item in the litter stream at 32 percent down to only 6 percent.  Every town that has bans reports nip litter has been largely eliminated. In the six years Plymouth has had a plastic shopping bag ban, based on 5 years of studies by the Mass Food Association, approximately 90 million of them have been diverted from our waste stream and virtually disappeared from our environment. We can do the same for nips.

Plymouth is addressing litter in many ways, not just with a ban. Twice annual town wide cleanups have been going on for over 13 years. More comprehensive approaches to litter in general have been proposed by Sustainable Plymouth and other organizations that have been working with town officials and the schools. These programs have promise in terms of significantly increasing recycling and the use of ecologically friendly materials while decreasing much of the cups and take-out food ware that litter our town, all with cost effective measures, grants and incentives.

Expanded bottle bills and deposits have been introduced every legislative session for the past 24 years. But these bills, including those introduced this term, get buried in a joint committee and are never allowed to get to the floor for a vote. As in the past, none of the current bills are expected to pass. Plymouth didn’t wait for the state 21 years ago when it enacted a smoking ban in restaurants well before the state did. We need to take care of ourselves. Beacon Hill will follow on this, not lead.

Residents will still frequent our local liquor stores once the ban goes into effect. Few will travel 30 to 40 minutes round trip to another town for alcohol simply because they can’t purchase a nip in Plymouth. In a March 2022 Wicked Local article, the manager of Wines & More in Wareham stated “We’ll lose some customers. But I don’t think it will be a huge hit for us.  We won’t lose a huge amount of profit”.  In towns where there are bans, there have been no reports of store closing or of widespread layoffs.  Liquor licenses in all these communities are selling at their full value. Clearly owning a liquor store remains a profitable, desirable, and very viable business regardless of whether it can or cannot sell nips. 

Bans like this have been proven to make significant impacts on litter, public intoxication, and alcohol-related harms of all kinds, while liquor stores still thrive. Town Meeting voted for the bylaw, the Open Space Committee sponsored it, the Select Board voted in favor of moving the article onto the warrant, the Board of Health voted overwhelmingly to support the nip ban, the Plymouth Center Steering Committee – which sees every day the impact of nips on our business and tourist district – voted unanimously to support and advocate for it, the League of Women Voters support the ban, and other groups in town and statewide support banning nips.

I urge you to protect your neighborhood, protect your environment and protect your community.  Vote yes to retain the nip ban on Jan. 13.

Ken Stone

Stone a retired psychologist with a post-doctoral degree in alcohol diagnosis and treatment, is vice chair of precinct 16. He is also a member of the Legislative Oversight Committee, sits on the Advisory Board of Sustainable Plymouth, and is active in the campaign to retain Town Meeting’s vote to ban alcohol nips in Plymouth.

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