The US government is aiming to cut nicotine in cigarettes to “non-addictive” levels, hoping to push smokers toward potentially less harmful e-cigarettes.

In announcing its plan, the Food and Drug Administration said tobacco use remains the leading cause of preventable disease and death in the United States, causing more than 480,000 deaths every single year.

“The overwhelming amount of death and disease attributable to tobacco is caused by addiction to cigarettes – the only legal consumer product that, when used as intended, will kill half of all long-term users,” FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb told NPR. “Unless we change course, 5.6m young people alive today will die prematurely later in life from tobacco use.”

This is the first time the government has sought to regulate the amount of nicotine in cigarettes. The FDA can neither reduce nicotine levels to zero, nor can it ban cigarettes.

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