The drama began when Ron "R-Truth" Killings hit up the audience for a smoke ... and actually LIT UP right in front of them ... including several children.
But the on-screen cig-fest didn't sit so well with anti-smoking activist Patrick Reynolds (pictured right) -- Executive Director of TobaccoFree.org -- who has officially issued a challenge to the wrestler ... to publicly apologize for the smoking stunt.
Reynolds -- ironically the grandson of tobacco magnate R.J. Reynolds -- tells TMZ, "For him to smoke in front of [children] is irresponsible. At best, it's thoughtless, and at worst, if he calculated appealing to kids by posing as a bad-boy outlaw, it's evil."
Reynolds adds, "If he wants help in quitting, I'll be happy to be his personal coach."
The WWE issued a statement to TMZ defending the cigarette incident -- saying, "The negative effect smoking has on one’s health and physical performance was a part of a storyline on last night’s Monday Night Raw. Negative depictions of tobacco use on television are not unusual and can be seen on other TV-PG shows."