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How smoking can ruin your Mac

According to a report, AppleCare warranties can be voided if Apple deems the damage was caused by secondhand smoke. Appeals to Steve Jobs have, apparently, not succeeded.

I have nothing against smoking, save for the difficult odor that emanates from every part, breath, and piece of clothing belonging to a smoker. I could no more live with a smoker than I could live with a third ear perched off the end of my nose.

However, I am embalmed in a curious sympathy after reading a report from The Consumerist concerning two Mac users whose AppleCare warranties appear to have been voided due to the presence of cigarette smoke in their homes.

One, named Derek, recounts the tale of his overheating black MacBook. He took it into the Apple store in Jordan Creek, West Des Moines.

He told The Consumerist: "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 secondhand smoke.'"

He continued: "Nowhere in your AppleCare terms of service can I find anything mentioning being used in a smoking environment as voiding the warranty."

Will a Marlboro Lights habit makes this cute thing inoperable? CC Galaygobi/Flickr

Derek's resulting appeal to the office of Steve Jobs bore him no joy, so he resorted to blowing some compressed air at the machine, leading it to restart its wondrous functions.

Then along came Ruth, who took her son's iMac to an authorized repair center. After five days, they apparently told her they couldn't work on it because it was contaminated with cigarette smoke and was therefore a bio-hazard.

When Ruth appealed to Jobs' office, she said she was told by someone named Dena that nicotine was on OSHA's list of hazardous substances.

However, as she wisely pointed out to The Consumerist: "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."

One final appeal to Ruth's local Apple store failed, as she was allegedly told that tar from cigarette smoke had made it uneconomical to even attempt a repair. Ruth claims that only one person in her household smokes.

So now might I hand this distinctly painful issue over you, the technically brilliant reader. Perhaps you are even an employee of Apple and have stumbled upon this page in search of a little light relief.

What is the science of all this? And what might be the appropriate commercial response? Should Apple place a clear disclaimer referring to secondhand smoke in the AppleCare terms? Or should Microsoft make a new Laptop Hunter ad in which a very attractive, happy person says, "I'm not cool enough and I smoke, so I would never be able to get a Mac fixed"?