Honestly I see both sides of this, and I think everyone is really overreacting and very polarized on the issue (not necessarily here, I mean on the wider web in general). Unnecessarily so.
Yes, I think Apple screwed up by not making this issue clear in their warranty terms. I presume they have a "toxic substances" clause of some kind in there, or at least one that is broad enough to cover that, but I don't think most smokers would really make that leap. So it should be spelled out since it's something they're likely to run into a lot given how many people smoke.
That being said, I don't see any problem with the grounds upon which they are refusing service, provided it is within the terms of their original warranty contract. As I said above, they should have been more clear, but nonetheless nicotine *is* a hazardous substance, and I think it's fair for technicians not to want to work on systems that are covered in smoker's tar.
People are talking up the potential legal action here in terms of the possibility that owners might sue. Well what about the possibility of Apple's workers suing for hazardous working conditions? In that light I think Apple is probably making a sound decision. The most they could lose from a suit regarding their warranty coverage is the cost of warranty or maybe the machine (plus legal fees), unless it turned class action, and even then it would still be relatively low overall damages. Whereas if the worker's union sued for hazardous working conditions? Could be big money.
Anyway the problem here is not the policy. I for one think it's perfectly reasonable, and even if you don't, no one is forcing you to buy Apple products or warranties. The problem is that they didn't let anyone know in advance (as far as I have read). If it's not in their terms, even if they have a general clause for "health hazards" (which they may well), it's still not clear enough to the average person without an explicit clause exempting machines in smokey environments. Such an exemption would clear up the whole mess in my opinion. Just don't buy Apple if you're a smoker and want warranty service. Or, you know, SMOKE OUTSIDE YOU IDIOT.
note: parts of this post are also posted on Betanews.
- Oshyan (the non-smoker)