Regs roundup: Pentagon to help service members kick smoking habit

“Establishment of the TRICARE smoking cessation program attempts to reduce the number of TRICARE beneficiaries who are nicotine dependent, thereby improving the health of the TRICARE beneficiary population and reducing Department of Defense costs,” the document continues.

Some opponents argued in comments to the Defense Department that beneficiaries should not get assistance with more than three attempts to quit smoking, saying it would be a waste of money and resources.

The department defended the rule, citing a study showing that it takes individuals an average of seven attempts to beat the habit. The overall cost savings of having less smoking-associated illnesses justify the nature of the program, officials argued.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is taking steps to protect students against predatory and unfair lending practices, according to a Federal Register document published Wednesday.

“Too many private student loan borrowers are struggling with unwieldy debt that prevents them from climbing the economic ladder,” said Director Richard Cordray last Thursday. “We will be analyzing plans for policymakers to consider that might help avoid a repeat of the mortgage meltdown for today’s student loan borrowers.”

In a request for information, the bureau says it wants to hear from a swath of individuals — from consumers, lenders and debt collectors to ratings agencies, housing finance professionals and auto manufacturers.

The bureau asks 16 primary questions, including topics such as options for borrowers in financial hardship, ways for the public agency to reduce “moral hazard” in financial institutions and how loan payments affect credit scores.

There are more than 38 million student loan borrowers with more than $1.1 trillion in outstanding debt, the document says. The public sector holds most of that debt. Comments are due by April 8.

The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is proposing to share information it receives from companies and manufactures of genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

The agency insists that business confidentiality can be protected while alerting state government officials about information the federal government receives in permit applications.

“APHIS currently withholds such information when it shares applications with non-federal government agencies,” the Federal Register document said. “This action would improve our collaborative and cooperative efforts with state and tribal governments as well as improve the effectiveness of our notification and permitting procedures as APHIS continues to regulate certain genetically engineered organisms.”