Stories of the Buddha often paint him as a serene, beatific being, immune to the turbulence of events around him. Although still human, he has transcended all earthly desire. This picture reminds me of a saint--in the world but not of it. Clearly, smoking is inconsistent with this image of the Buddha. But we all have to use our own personal judgment to determine how much faith we put inside this image of perfection.
I think that part of the confusion has to do with the terms we use when discussing enlightenment. In Zen (some schools at least), a great deal of emphasis is placed on satori, a breakthrough or enlightenment experience. Much of Rinzai training aims directly at this. But is satori enlightenment?
Every couple of years the Buddhist community is shaken by scandal, where some highly respected teacher is accused of abusing power (usually sexual). So what about these guys? Are they enlightened? Obviously they don't match the traditional image of the transcendental Buddha seated on a lotus flower.
My best answer is that these teachers may have had an enlightenment experience but are not themselves enlightened--if they were, they would understand that their actions are harming others and would therefore refrain. Of course all humans are going to have habits and personality tics--I don't think that enlightenment scours all that away--but I have a hard time reconciling severe behavior disorders with the image of a fully enlightened being. Perhaps that is naive or idealistic of me.
So, can a Buddha be an addicted smoker, gambler, drinker? My gut tells me no, but then again I'm not enlightened. I'll tell you when I get there.
What do you think?
Photo borrowed from Creative Commons flickr user: AndyRamdin/ND-photo.nl.