Tobacco – Passion and Challenge
Only very few manage to make a career out of their passion. Those who succeed, however, profit not only themselves, such as in the form of an increase in happiness, but as a rule their employer also benefits -- after all conviction and passion are the best motivation ...
About seven years ago, Austria Tabak, a company of the JTI Group, recruited a young man whose life elixir appeared to be business law. At the same time, however, he is a passionate cigar smoker and a militant advocate of the right of the individual to determine his or her own lifestyle. Hardly anyone knows the laws concerning the production, marketing and consumption of tobacco better than Dr. Martin-Ralph Frauendorfer, a member of the management of Austria Tabak and Vice President Legal for the JTI-Region Central Europe/Nordic. “If I were to explain my functions in visual terms, I would choose a shield, a sword and a compass as my symbols,” explains the lawyer. An attractive and accurate image selected by the “tobacco lawyer”, since there is hardly any trade sector that has to deal with more restrictions and where the challenge is greater to use the narrow legal scope in the interests of the enterprise. Martin-Ralph Frauendorfer’s daily business thus involves defending, battling and probing.
Tobacco, tradition and tolerance
The battle is worth it – after all the lawyer is mobilising his forces for an enterprise with a long-standing tradition. Austria Tabak was founded in 1784 and is one of the oldest if not the oldest tobacco enterprise in the world. “We will be celebrating our 225th anniversary next year, and are proud of what we have achieved through these long and changing times,” confirms Martin-Ralph Frauendorfer. Austria Tabak continues to be the market leader in Austria in the field of tobacco, and part of the world’s third largest producer – JTI manufactures three of the top five international cigarette brands (Camel, Winston and Mild Seven) and will be celebrating its 10th anniversary next year. Nevertheless, and precisely because of this, the Group continues to rely on tolerant coexistence. “Our enterprise – still under the name of Austria Tabak – began the 'Tolerance unites’ campaign as long ago as 1996, hence long before the statutory regulations,” emphasises the lawyer. In cooperation with many famous restaurateurs, the use of air purification systems was intended to ensure that it would be possible for smokers and non-smokers to coexist with sympathy for each other.
Casablanca and JTI Smoking Lounges
It is with this in mind that Martin-Ralph Frauendorfer has for years been committed to encouraging a fair smoking culture characterised by the principle of enjoyment. In 2006, the enthusiastic cigar smoker started the Casablanca Lounge project, thus combining his personal passion with the interests of the enterprise. “The Casablanca Lounge, a mobile cigar lounge, was set up in order to offer visitors to high-quality social events the cultivated enjoyment of smoking in an attractive atmosphere, combined with a powerful ventilation system as the basis for a tolerant coexistence between smokers and non-smokers,” explains the tobacco lawyer. The demand for the Lounge snowballed: the team had begun on a small scale at various events, the guests were delighted and booked the lounge for their own events. In the meantime, the Lounge is in use three to four times a month, with annual highlights such as the Opera Ball or, this summer, at the European Championships Fan Mile and even at the Sports Gala Night at the Vienna Imperial Palace. This initiative excellently complements the JTI Smoking Lounges being set up with the same intention at airports around the world, 50 of which are already in operation, with the result that the smoker can relax there over a cigarette in an attractive setting.
The law, Julieta and the Journal
Martin-Ralph Frauendorfer became an aficionado during his studies in Vienna, Warwick and Salzburg. It was a Romeo y Julieta No. 2 that set the seal on his passion for the cigar and soon the then law student began to try out cigars across the board. He developed his knowledge through the European Cigar Cult Journal. “I have continuously cultivated my passion for the cigar, including by reading the European Cigar Cult Journal. I have a complete set of issues since 1999, and I also had the honour of being made a member of the ECCJ Tasting Panel two years ago.” After lunch, the company lawyer is always accompanied by a cigar through the rest of the day. “The cigar is a pleasant change in everyday life, it relaxes and mostly has a positive influence – including through the different nuances of flavour – on my mood.” Since he sits at the source, as it were – the company’s Tobaccoland subsidiary distributes numerous products by all the famous cigar manufacturers in Austria -- it is almost a professional obligation for him to test the various cigars on a regular basis.
Restaurants, laws and limits
Otherwise, he considers it a matter of course for smokers and non-smokers to encounter each other with tolerance and fairness. It is on this principle of tolerance – in the premium restaurant sector it has long been the practice for cigars not to be lit up until after the meal – that the regulative solutions should ideally be based. “In the light of the in part radical solutions that have been applied in a number of countries in Europe, I think that Austria has, in the good old tradition, found an acceptable happy medium. The possibility of allowing smaller establishments an option and requiring the installation of a separate area for smokers if the establishment is larger than a specific size is a compromise that largely takes account of the interests of all those affected,” is how this expert assesses the provisions in Austria. As a result of the decision by the German Constitutional Court in September allowing exceptions for smaller establishments and the judicial decision in October setting aside the prohibition on smoking in Geneva, he hopes that Germany and Switzerland will also allow themselves to be guided by the pragmatic and appropriate Austrian solution.
Challenge, passion and solutions
In the coming years, further statutory regulations and bans on smoking in national and EU law will continue to keep the trade on edge. This development naturally causes Martin-Ralph Frauendorfer concern, but in a certain way he is also looking forward to the challenge. It is becoming increasingly difficult to deal with the variety of restrictions, and in particular lawyers will be required more and more to act within an ever-narrower scope. It is precisely for this reason that Martin-Ralph Frauendorfer can well identify with a statement by his boss, who once said to him that working as a lawyer in the tobacco business was like giving a Ferrari to a motor maniac.