The Food and Drug Administration is planning to require tobacco companies to slash the amount of nicotine in traditional cigarettes to make them less addictive and reduce the toll of smoking that claims 480,000 lives each year.
The proposal, which could take years to go into effect, would put the United States at the forefront of global antismoking efforts. Only one other nation, New Zealand, has advanced such a plan.
The headwinds are fierce. Tobacco companies have already indicated that any plan with significant reductions in nicotine would violate the law. And some conservative lawmakers might consider such a policy another example of government overreach, ammunition that could spill over into the midterm elections.