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U.S. proposes cigarette nicotine cut, shift toward e-cigarettes

WASHINGTON, July 28 (Reuters) - The U.S. government proposed cutting nicotine in cigarettes to "non-addictive" levels on Friday in a major regulatory shift designed to move smokers toward potentially less harmful e-cigarettes.

Shares of major tobacco companies in the United States and UK slumped in heavy trading volume after the proposal was unveiled by the head of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, with the world's biggest producers losing about $26 billion of market value.

"Nicotine itself is not responsible for the cancer, the lung disease and heart disease that kill hundreds of thousands of Americans each year," FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said.

"It's the other chemical compounds in tobacco and in the smoke created by setting tobacco on fire that directly cause illness and death."

The FDA cannot reduce nicotine levels to zero, nor can it ban cigarettes. But Gottlieb said the agency would study regulating nicotine levels with a view toward the "FDA's potential to render cigarettes minimally addictive or non-addictive."

Analysts said they expect regulators in Europe to study similar actions on nicotine products.

The action shakes up a debate among public health advocates as to whether e-cigarettes represent a health risk or potential benefit.

"While there's still much research to be done on these products and the risks that they may pose, they may also present benefits that we must consider,"...


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