Apple Refuses To Fix Smokers' Computers

Dennis Faas's picture

If you run over your computer with a monster truck, stick dynamite in the USB slot or attach it to a Slinky and roll it down the stairway, you can reasonably expect to lose any warranty or cover care you have on it. But now there's another rash activity that can leave you out of pocket if a fault develops: smoking.

The Consumerist website, run by the same group behind Consumer Reports magazine, says two readers have found Apple refused to fix computers because they were smokers. Both had purchased the extended warranty Applecare package. In one case, the problems with the machine were blamed on tar residue from cigarette smoke, while in the other its not yet clear what was to blame.

However, it wasn't just the fact that smoking may have caused the damage that led to Apple to refuse to fix the machines. Instead, Apple staff reportedly claimed that fixing the machines would expose staff to the health risk from second-hand smoke.

Nicotine On Official Danger List

One customer complained directly to the office of Apple owner Steve Jobs and says she was told by a Jobs assistant that nicotine is on the Occupational Health and Safety Administrator's list of hazardous substances. (Source:

Of course, not only is it questionable whether the amount of smoke residue which could have built up inside a Mac would have posed a health risk to a repair technician, but by the time the staff had examined the machine closely enough to detect smoke residue, any damage would presumably already have been done.

Contract Unclear On Smoke Exclusion

It's also questionable whether the terms of Applecare allow the firm to reject claims in such cases. There's certainly no explicit mention of smoking in the policy, and there doesn't appear to be any mention of hazardous substances. The nearest thing to relevant would be a clause which excludes damage caused by "abuse, neglect [or] misuse", though there is a catch-all clause excluding damage from "other external causes". (Source:

And if lawyers wanted to play the literal card, the contract does also exclude damage caused by fire.

Whatever the situation, if Apple does want to refuse to repair computers used by heavy smokers, that certainly seems like a class of customers big enough that it needs to be explicitly stated before people hand over their cash.

To give Apple some credit, it's important to note that this only represents two cases, one of which was last year. However, if this is a widespread issue, the Consumerist story may prompt others to come forward with similar complaints.

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