Did a Waltham firefighter break the law recently when he was spotted smoking outside of the Moody Street station?
According to the Waltham Fire Chief, the firefighter violated no laws.
The law’s purpose is to protect taxpayers since firefighters and police officers are eligible to for lucrative tax-free disability pensions when they retire, according to WBZ-TV. They are also eligible for lifetime health care benefits, according to WBZ-TV.
A recent story by WBZ-TV questioned whether the firefighter (and firefighters from other communities) spotted smoking on duty broke a state pension law that prohibits firefighters from smoking on or off duty.
The law also prohibits use of any other tobacco products.
The head of the state's public employee pension system told WBZ-TV that claims that cancer and heart attack diagnoses are job-related are typically not questioned by doctors.
Waltham Fire Chief Paul Ciccone told Waltham Patch the firefighter shown in the story did not break the law.
declined to name the firefighter, he said the employee was after 1988 under a fire service exam taken in 1985,
which means he is exempt from the law. Under the law, firefighters hired prior
to 1988 or after 198 under an exam prior to that year, are allowed to use tobacco products on or off duty.
Ciccone said the firefighter was mortified over the issue.
"He was very embarrassed. He was very disheartened,” Ciccone said.
Overall, Ciccone said firefighters smoking in violation of the law has never been an issue for Waltham. However, if a commanding officer spotted a firefighter smoking on duty, the issue would be addressed, Ciccone said.
"It is something that is difficult to enforce," Ciccone said, noting the difficulties of enforcing it off duty.
As for the law, Ciccone said it should be revised. He said he would like to see it modified to give fire department’s discretion over whether a firefighter should be terminated if caught smoking. Currently, the law requires a firefighter who breaks the law to be fired, according to Ciccone. First, the firefighter is entitled to a disciplinary hearing, according to the law.