I may be the first to tell you this, but you probably shouldn’t smoke. Apparently, it’s not actually good for you. While this should hopefully not come as too great a shock, you may be more surprised to learn that its not particularly great for your computer either. People who tend to smoke around their computers are often likely to find a build-up of  ash generated by second-hand smoke within the computer, and while one could argue that this is a problem easily solved with a can of compressed air and a paper towel, Apple, the world’s leading exporter of voided warranties, will actually refuse to work on computers exposed to secondhand smoke. Even those who had in the past managed to get their appeals for service as high as former CEO Steve Jobs were turned away. So what’s the rational?

Here’s a few emails from disgruntled Apple users who were told that their warranty was no longer valid due to second-hand smoke, and why. Derke’s experience in 2008 shows that even non-smokers may be at risk of having their warranties axed by Applecare:

I took my mid 2007 apple macbook (black) into the Jordan Creek Apple Store in West Des Moines, Iowa, on Saturday, April 25th, because I had been experiencing some issues with it overheating, and figured the fan was bad. After some initial testing, they took the computer in for work under my Applecare plan, which has over a year remaining on it.

Today, April, 28, 2008, the Apple store called and informed me that due to the computer having been used in a house where there was smoking, that has voided the warranty and they refuse to work on the machine, due to “health risks of second hand smoke”.

Not only is this faulty science, attributing non smoking residue to second hand smoke, on Chad’s part, no where in your applecare terms of service can I find anything mentioning being used in a smoking environment as voiding the warranty.

Ruth had an almost identical complaint after attempting to have her son’s iMac repaired:

I bought an iMac for my son (for school) along with the extended Applecare warranty. A month ago, it quit working. My son took it to the authorized Mac service center. The “tech” informed him it would be ready in 48-72 hours. Five days go by and he’s heard nothing, so I called. They informed me that his computer can’t be worked on because it’s contaminated.

When I asked for an explanation, she said he’s a smoker and it’s contaminated with cigarette smoke which they consider a bio-hazard! I checked my Applecare warranty and it says nothing about not honoring warranties if the owner is a smoker. The Applecare representative said they defer to the technician and my son’s computer cannot be fixed at any Apple Service Center due to being listed a bio-hazard.

This computer cost approx. $3,000, with the extended warranty. I’m all for destroying cigarettes and putting big tobacco out of business (yes, I’m a reformed smoker), but to label a computer a biohazard because one is a smoker is going a bit too far in regulating who can have the warranty they purchased honored. Shouldn’t there be some disclaimer stating that they won’t honor warranties from smokers?

When she even managed to reach the office of Steve Jobs, the response she received was just as tepid:

Dena [from Jobs' office] did advise me that nicotine is on OSHA’s list of hazardous substances and Apple would not require an employee to repair anything deemed hazardous to their health. However, OSHA also lists calcium carbonate (found in calcium tablets), isopropyl alcohol (used to clean wounds), chlorine (used in swimming pools), hydrogen peroxide (also used to clean wounds), sucrose (a sugar), talc (as in powder), etc… as hazardous substances.

Dena set up an appointment at the same Apple store. They told me that they would take pictures of the computer – both inside and out before determining whether to proceed and that if the only problem was the optical drive, they’d probably just replace it. Dena called me earlier this week to deliver the “bad news.” She said that the computer is beyond economical repair due to tar from cigarette smoke! She said the hard drive is about to fail, the optical drive has failed and it isn’t feasible to repair the computer under the warranty. This computer is less than 2 years old! Only one person in my household smokes – one 21 year old college student. She said that I can get it repaired elsewhere at my expense. I asked why my warranty didn’t cover the repair and was told it’s an OSHA violation.

While this could be called a case of “he said, she said,” the trend seems to indicate that Apple makes a practice of blaming cigarette smoke for any considerable build-up of dust within a computer at all, and then uses it as a means to void warranty. But until more apparent non-smokers come out from the wood-works to speak up, it remains hard to determine the veracity of either Apple’s claims or those of the handful of unhappy consumers. Regardless, let us know of any similar experiences with Applecare and cigarette smoke!