A woman in China actually smokes for a living — as a tobacco appraiser...
...for the past 21 years, Li Hui has spent most of her days smoking - puffing back on some 30 cigarettes a day at work alone - and with no plans to break the workplace habit anytime soon.
That's because Li loves her job as a tobacco appraiser for Heilongjiang Tobacco Industrial Co. Ltd. in Harbin, Northeast China's Heilongjiang Province. Despite mounting public controversy over her work due to the now-known health affects of smoking and second-hand smoke, she says that she has no intention of quitting or changing jobs.
"It's my job, and I like it," Li told the Global Times. "Besides, I haven't seen anyone around me or my friends getting sick from smoking yet."
Still, given the rise of anti-smoking pressure from tobacco-control groups both in and out of the country these days, Li was reluctant to be interviewed, even months after she was featured on Liaoning-based news portal nen.com.cn for a Women's Day spread in March. Throughout her career, Li has won praise for her hard work and has even been recognized by the city of Harbin as a model worker.
"But I don't like to be promoted now," she said. "This isn't the right time; many people within the social environment are increasingly anti-smoking."
Nevertheless, Li, one of hundreds of tobacco appraisers in China - the largest cigarette producer and consumer in the world, with more than a quarter of the country's population or 350 million people smoking, accounting for 35 percent of the world's smokers - remains content to go to work each day, where she sits at her desk and lights up all day long.
Inhaling a deep breath of smoke and holding it in before slowly exhaling, she carefully evaluates the taste, flavor and irritant effects of each cigarette she smokes. After three long, hard draws, the cigarette is nearly done. She then sparks another until her day ends, sometimes even smoking the equivalent of more than two packs of cigarettes...
[W]hile most people believe that workers like Li must be compensated well for the health risks they take at work, according to Pan Tingting, also a female tobacco appraiser, at Hubei China Tobacco Industry Co. Ltd., their monthly salary only hovers around 5,000 yuan ($817), Hubei-based Chutian Metropolis Daily reported at the end of last year...
Though a lot of people may disapprove of the work Li does, she says that she takes comfort in having her family to lean on, even if they have their reservations about her work and tobacco - the killer of nearly 6 million people worldwide per year, or one person every second, according to the World Health Organization.