Apple voids Applecare warranty for smokers!

Apple has been accused of voiding two customers' Applecare warranty because their Macs were used by smokers. Apple says it's worried about the health and safety of its technicians, but in IT Blogwatch, bloggers roll up that argument and set fire to it.

By Richi Jennings. November 23, 2009.


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Your humble blogwatcher selected these bloggy morsels for your enjoyment. Not to mention Asteroids...

    Cade Metz coughs and splutters:

A Mac user claims that Apple voided her warranty and refused to repair her machine because it was "contaminated" with cigarette smoke. ... an Apple service center agreed to repair a machine before telling the owner repairs were not possible because the system contained some sort of smoke residue.


The [Applecare] warranty does not include mention of either secondhand smoke or biohazards. It does say that the plan does not cover "damage to the covered equipment caused by...extreme environment."

Laura Northrup picks up the story:

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? ... Two readers in different parts of the country claim that their Applecare warranties were voided due to secondhand smoke.


[We] 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.

But this Anonymous Coward plays Surgeon General:

I used to work as a computer technician. ... Computers that had either failed or seized up due to nicotine/tar build up were impossible to clean, and nearly impossible to repair. The nasty build-up got literally everywhere, clogging heatsinks, coating voltage regulators, caps, expansion slots, and other devices that depend on air convection.


If smoking doesn't constitute improper operation, it should. For all the people bitching out there, smoking has been demonstrated to cause premature failure to humans, particularly second-hand smoke which contains a Noah's Ark of nasty bacteria and pathogens. Why is it such a surprise that it also kills sensitive electronic equipment?

David Coursey incites Apple:

I am as much against smoking as anyone. I also do not want workers needlessly exposed to hazardous substances. Still, for Apple to deny warranty claims on Macs exposed to cigarette smoke seems way over the line. ... My hazardous materials training has taught me that however dangerous smoke residue may be, there is a way to deal with it.


Imagine one of those chambers that lab workers use, inserting their hands through holes in the box into permanently attached gloves. Only the gloves and a set of tools from inside the box touch the computer. ... Alternately, a self-contained breathing apparatus, such as firefighters wear, would prevent inhalation of the cigarette residue.

This Anonymous Coward agrees:

They have an obligation to the customer under the terms of the warranty. They also have an obligation to their employees. They need to honor both, not pick and choose.


OSHA does not prohibit working with dangerous materials (manufacturing and maintaining computers does involve doing so), it just requires proper safety procedures be observed when doing so. The possibility of working with computers that have been exposed to cigarette smoke was not unknown or plausibly considered to be remote at the time when these warranties were issued.

L'ano Itar calls bull:

[I'm] a reformed heavy-smoker who also smoked in a room full of computers. ... I generally take apart my computers once a year or so to blow out the dust and remove the cat fur that inevitably clogs the intakes. I've never had an issue with tar on heatsinks, nor premature failure of components.


Non-smokers whining about the smell of old tobacco is one thing, but when we resort to lies to "prove" a point, there is no argument.

And Gordon JC Pearce examines the OSHA argument, finding it wanting:

But there isn't any "second-hand smoke" actually in the computer. There's the residue that you get from smoke, but that's not actually smoke. It's not particularly harmful unless you breath in a big cloud of it, but that's true of any kind of dust. If you're poking about inside dusty equipment, you should be wearing appropriate PPE anyway.

So what's your take?
Get involved: leave a comment.

And finally...

Richi Jennings, your humble blogwatcher
  Richi Jennings is an independent analyst/consultant, specializing in blogging, email, and security. A cross-functional IT geek since 1985, he is also an analyst at Ferris Research. You can follow him as @richi on Twitter, or richij on FriendFeed, pretend to be richij's friend on Facebook, or just use good old email:

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