A few weeks ago I took part in a group discussion on the above question, following are a few of the points that were made.
If smoking is considered as a fault, also other activities, such as driving a car and playing a heavy sport should be categorised in the same manner. For instance, at least some car accidents are definitely the fault of a single individual; doesn’t that individual deserve free health-care even if this could have been avoided if the person at fault just did not drive a car, knowing the many risks? And also, rugby players are constantly getting injured on the field due to the nature of the sport, should we also negate them free health-care?
Furthermore, in the past it was encouraged to smoke. When discovered, smoking was an activity of pleasure as still is, it was advertised and many people started smoking as young as 7 or 8 as the drawbacks were not known yet. Especially in the 80’s it was seen as symbolically representing the more charismatic individuals and teenagers would follow these role model to appear more socially appeasing to their peers.
In addition, in the western society it is culturally acceptable to smoke. There are places for smokers and smokers form circles. Ending smoking would break ties with many social groups, which might lead to the person becoming isolated. Bonds with friends would be broken because the individual will not be able to do activities with them and less communication leads to weaker friendships.
Although, regarding the newer generations, they should be less lenient. Currently smoking’s side effects to the lungs are well known and the teenagers living now have been fed enough information to avoid smoking from birth. Now it is their responsibility to make a rational decision and not smoke. However, knowing the facts and still doing the act can be classified as irresponsible behaviour and as such punished in order to prevent others to do it. Health care professionals must not promote smoking and that is why non-smokers should have the priority.