Smoking Near Apple Computers Creates Biohazard, Voids Warranty

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Unless you’ve just arrived in 2009 on a time machine, you know that smoking isn’t good for you. Did you know, that smoking isn’t good for your computer, either? It’s true, at least according to Apple. Two readers in different parts of the country claim that their Applecare warranties were voided due to secondhand smoke. Both readers appealed their cases up to the office of God Steve Jobs himself. Both lost.

Back in April, Derek copied us on his e-mail to Jobs:

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.

Jobs’ office did not help Derek, but he resolved some of the problems himself by disassembling his Macbook and cleaning it out with a can of compressed air.

A few months later, reader Ruth wrote to us with an identical complaint after trying to have her son’s iMac repaired at a local authorized repair center.

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?

Ruth appealed her case to Steve Jobs’s office, which also declined to repair the iMac. In another letter, she wrote:

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.

UPDATE:On Monday, reader Jeniffer wrote in that she has experienced the same problem with her Mac–in the last week.

I own a mac and live in Oklahoma. Recently the burner stopped working.
We have AppleCare so we took it in 2 days ago for repair. We just
recieved a call today stating we needed to come get it because they
are refusing to work on it due to health hazards from second hand
smoke due to OSHA violations.

Consumerist has tried repeatedly to obtain some kind of answer about these two cases from Apple’s media relations department, and we have received nothing on the record after months of waiting. Mostly, we’re curious what the threshold is for smoke damage to a computer, and why this is not mentioned in the Applecare contract.

(Photo: Sutanto Saputro ???)