AppleI'm not a smoker. I don't enjoy being in the presence of cigarette smoke. But I still had mixed feelings about the UK workplace smoking ban.

You can't argue with the health benefits, but I am not a fan of Whitehall telling people what they can and cannot do in the comfort of their own pub. And now Apple wants in on the health fascism.

According to The Consumerist, Apple repair centres in the US have recently refused to mend at least two laptops because their owners were smokers. (The full story is here: Apple 'won't repair machines belonging to smokers'.)

Typically, Apple hasn't commented on the story. (I believe the Pope remains dedicated to Roman Catholicism.)

As such, it's difficult to ascertain the true reason behind the anti-puff stance but, according to The Consumerist, Apple justified the decision to the customers by saying that the amount of residual cigarette smoke inside the computers makes it dangerous for staff to work on them. Which is up there with 'the dog ate my homework' in the excuses stake.

(For the record, The Consumerist is part of a group of respected US consumer organisations known as the Consumers Union/Consumer Reports. Think Which? in the UK. So while it's not PC Advisor's story, it's from a credible source.)

Although the story broke only late last week, The Consumerist says it has been on Apple's case about it for months, and the complaint has been raised as far as the big boss: Steve Jobs. All to no avail.

Is Apple justified in this stance? Well, no. And not least because there's nothing about smoking in the Apple warranties that these products are, in principle, covered by.

Apple repair workers absolutely have the right to work in a smoke-free environment. Of course they do. But Apple customers who purchase a product and warranty in good faith have an equal right to see that agreement adhered to without the goalposts being shifted.

Are we really to believe that Apple, in all of its technological splendour, is unable to provide a safe way of repairing machines with a bit of cigarette smoke hanging about? And how much smoke are we talking about here, really? (Have they never heard of fume cupboards or, get this: gas masks? My decrepit old school boasted both more than 20 years ago. And we had no computers.)

If a company such as Apple feels justified in denying customers repairs under warranty because of health issues, it opens up a significant can of worms. Apple has sufficient clout that if this becomes its standard process there's nothing to stop other companies following its lead. Smokers could become the second class citizens of the tech world.

And if the presence of cigarette smoke is enough to void a warranty, we should all be worried. What's next: warranties being rendered useless because a PC has been been kept in too warm or damp a room? Or used by someone deemed incompetent?

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