Apple Refuses to Fix Smokers' Computers, Suggest Customers

Apple reportedly refused to fix a few customers' Macs, arguing that the owners' smoking around the machines made the electronics a bio-hazard to Apple employees. Whether or not Apple's technicians were truly at risk, photos and comments from the online community suggest that smoking around desktops and laptops can indeed physically damage the insides of the devices.

Smoking is apparently hazardous not only for your health, but also your MacBook's.

The Consumerist blog has posted two accounts of Apple customers who turned in their computers for service only to be told that the Applecare warranties were voided due to secondhand smoke. In both cases, Apple employees reportedly refused to work on the machines because of either the "health risks of second hand smoke" or else a "bio-hazard" threat.

Apple has not yet returned eWEEK's request for comment.

"They informed me that [my son's] computer can't be worked on because it's contaminated," one of the readers wrote to Consumerist. "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!"

That reader apparently received a note from Apple suggesting its employees were not required to repair anything potentially hazardous to their health, including nicotine, which is listed on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)'s list of hazardous substances. OSHA also lists permissible exposure limits for skin contact with nicotine; a threat that could be negated, perhaps, with use of the same type of gloves used for working with other hazardous substances.

The Applecare plan makes no mention of smoking as a condition for voiding coverage. However, clause b.ii states that "damaged to the Covered Equipment caused by accident, abuse, neglect, misuse...unauthorized modification, [and] extreme environment" are not covered under the plan; in theory, that provides enough wiggle room for Apple employees to decline a smoke-saturated machine.

Apocryphal evidence from the online community suggests that smoking around a laptop or desktop does indeed have an effect on the machine's innards.

"My sister smokes & her PC was starting to do strange things, so she dropped the thing off to me," one commenter wrote on the Consumerist message forums. "I opened up the case, and it looked like sticky-poop looking muck all over the PC-on top of the processor heat sink (just under the fan) was a layer of this muck."

"You can always tell when people smoke by their computers," wrote another on the same forum. "The dirt is not a light dust [that's] more common with pet owners, [it's] a heavy sticky dust that sometimes even an air compressor has a hard time getting rid of."

"I have seen computers die prematurely from 2nd hand smoke," a poster wrote on, which also includes photos of PC fans and heat-sinks that purportedly died from smoke inhalation. "What most people don't realize that while they are chain smoking for hours in front of their system, their computer is sucking in the ailments."

Apple evidently wants to prevent its products from suffering a similar fate.