WASHINGTON - Regulatory moves that could one day make smoking an obsolete habit get underway next week when U.S. regulators hold a public meeting on a closely watched cigarette alternative.

The proposal from the Food and Drug Administration is two-fold: cut nicotine levels in cigarettes so that they are far less addictive. For those who can't or won't quit, allow lower-risk products that deliver nicotine without the deadly effects of traditional cigarettes.

But the plan could have another unexpected effect: opening the door for companies to sell a new generation of alternative tobacco products, allowing the industry to survive for generations to come.

It is a thorny proposition because it offers a potential role for the tobacco industry in the long-standing effort to eliminate the diseases caused by smoking.