Young woman/adult smoking e-cigarette

Six of the nation’s leading public health organizations on Monday filed motions asking federal courts for a say in two lawsuits brought by the e-cigarette and cigar industries against the Food and Drug Administration’s “deeming rule.”

The deeming rule, issued last year, established public health oversight of e-cigarettes, cigars and other previously unregulated tobacco products.

In the court filings, the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Heart Association, American Lung Association, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and Truth Initiative expressed concerns that the Trump administration could put children’s health and public health at risk by weakening, rescinding or failing to defend the new regulations.

The groups filed what is known as a motion to intervene, which means they’ve asked to be admitted into the two lawsuits in defense of the expanded tobacco regulations. The filings were made in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia and the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama, where two of the challenges to the deeming rule are pending.

In the spring, the Department of Justice twice delayed filing legal briefs defending the FDA rule. On May 1, the DOJ filed joint papers in court with the cigar and e-cigarette industry plaintiffs requesting that all deadlines in the cases be extended three months so that new staff at the Department of Health and Human Services could consider the rule more extensively.

The FDA also said it would extend by three months all compliance deadlines under the rule set for May 10, 2017, or later.

According to the motions, the groups are concerned the government “may not aggressively defend the Deeming Rule, or may seek to alter or rescind the Rule, after their recent changes in leadership.”

In a news release, the groups noted that failing to fully enforce the new regulations would adversely affect public health and increase risks posed by tobacco, especially for young people. The health groups noted that flavored e-cigarettes and cigars appeal disproportionately to kids.

The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled against the e-cigarette industry in another legal challenge to the deeming rule last week. In that case, the court upheld the deeming rule as a proper exercise of the FDA’s authority.