It might not be their stated purpose, but 50-milliliter liquor bottles — commonly known as “nips” — sure are tailor-made for drinking while driving.

And sure enough, an explosion in the popularity of the tiny one-shot bottles in Maine has coincided with rare upticks in drunken-driving convictions and accidents, as well as an increase in the number of nips found discarded as litter on the side of the road.

Bottling those nips also provides good-paying jobs to a number of Mainers, but that can’t be the deciding factor here; if the tiny bottles are making Maine’s roads unacceptably less safe — and it appears that they are — they have to go.

That decision is up to the State Liquor and Lottery Commission, which is being asked by Gov. Paul LePage and the Bureau of Alcoholic Beverages and Lottery Operations to end the sale of 50-milliliter bottles.

The issue surfaced earlier this year as legislators worked toward adding nips to the state bottle deposit law, which they ultimately did over LePage’s veto.

The deposit bill was a good solution to mounting litter caused by the bottles, but LePage attacked it — eventually — for not doing enough to stop drunken driving.

He then threatened to end nip sales if the legislation passed, a strange bit of logic, seeing as how nips pose the same threat to drunken driving whether there is a deposit or not.

Nevertheless, the deposit bill passed, and now the governor is following through on his threat — the commission will consider his request July 11, and may make a decision that day.

When they do, they’ll see that nip sales jumped from half a million in 2007 to 8.4 million last year, with a significant jump in 2014, according to the state bureau.

Most of sales occur now at convenience stores, the type of places that people stop in to grab a snack and drink for the drive, and it’s not a difficult leap to assume many of those nips are being consumed on the road — unlike larger bottles, they can be quickly emptied then discarded, leaving no evidence but a lot more litter.

Backing up that argument, around the same time as nip sales exploded, the bureau argues, Maine saw its first increase in OUI convictions since 2007. Traffic deaths attributable to drunken driving are also up.

That doesn’t show a direct correlation between 50-milliliter bottles and drunken driving, and law enforcement has yet to weigh in. But it’s a pretty good start to a case for ending the sales of the 50-milliliter bottles.

Unfortunately, it’s unclear what that would mean for the 130 or so Mainers who work at Sazerac Co. in Lewiston bottling Fireball Cinnamon Whisky, a liqueur that accounts for half the nips sales in Maine — $2.8 million worth last fiscal year. The company argues that the uptick in drunken driving could have other causes, and that the ban proposal is politically motivated.

Maybe, but the numbers and common sense point show that nips make Maine roads less safe, and it is up to the liquor commission to act on the side of public safety.

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