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What do you think of this? Firefighters caught in the act … of smoking.

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An undercover I-Team investigation in Massachusetts. WBZ-TV reporter Joe Shortsleeve, armed with a hidden camera, catches firefighters smoking. It apparently wasn’t that hard of an assignment, with Shortsleeve saying he caught one after another in the act of lighting up.

So, why is this news? Because Massachusetts State law prohibits firefighters and police officers from smoking or using any tobacco products and Shortsleeve says it isn’t being fully enforced.

Joe Shortsleeve, WBZ-TV:

Why so strict?  Because of the inherent dangers in their jobs, police and firefighters are eligible for a tax free disability pensions with complete health care and they are not cheap for the taxpayer. The I-Team has learned the state paid out $75 million in health related disability pensions over the past five years to more than 1,800 police and firefighters.

Joe Connarton oversees the state’s public employee pension system. He says if a police officer or firefighter has a heart attack or gets cancer, it is automatically presumed to be job related.

MA Boston smoking firefighters

Shortsleeve: “For the most part the doctors go along with the presumption.”

Connarton: “That is correct.”

But firefighters who contacted the I-Team and did not want to be identified say the “no smoking” policy is rarely if ever enforced. 

“You sign a paper when you get the job and say you will refrain from using these products.”

MA Boston I Team graphic WBZ

“So the citizens of Massachusetts are eventually going to be paying the pensions of these people who swore they would never smoke and now they are going to walk out the door with a tax free pension that you and I going to pay for.”

Ed Kelly is the President of the Massachusetts Fire Fighters Association. He says local chiefs should enforce the no smoking rule. But Kelly says firefighters should be offered treatment, not termination.

“It is disturbing,” he says. “I don’t feel good about it. It is not the image we want to portray.”

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