Attorney John Banzhaf made his name, and a lot of money, by suing tobacco companies. The George Washington University professor heads up an organization that promises “hundreds of billions [YES, BILLIONS!] of dollars” from anti-tobacco lawsuits. At a cost, of course: If you want one of his “lawsuit kits,” you’ll have to pay up.
With the tobacco cases in the past, Banzhaf has found a new target: Restaurants and food producers. “Tactics used against the tobacco industry very successfully… could be used against the problem of obesity,” he has said. “As we’ve done with regard to cigarettes, [we could] put a higher tax on foods, which are less healthy, thereby using that money to perhaps promote healthier eating. Now this is what we do with smoking.”
According to The London Independent, Banzhaf started suing tobacco producers four decades ago, “when everyone thought he was nuts.” The idea that food equals tobacco is unfortunately increasingly less “nutty” in the eyes of activists and regulators; on CNN just last week, Margo Wootan of the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) revealed that “health advocates are looking at tobacco as a model.” (And CSPI insider Kelly Brownell has said “there is no difference between Ronald McDonald and Joe Camel… we have to start thinking about this in a more militant way.”) [For more about CSPI, visit CSPIscam.com.]
Banzhaf “is embarking on a new adventure in legal activism,” the Independent reports. “Already, his graduate class has inspired one lawsuit, against McDonald’s, and at least three others are in the works around the country. And that is just the beginning… Banzhaf’s approach is a gradualist one.” He plans to first “go after food companies that misrepresent their products,” then those he believes make “misleading health claims.” From there, it’s on to “sins of omission” — suing companies that do not explicitly point out any potential health risk. (Like the fact that French fries and cheeseburgers are fattier than a garden salad.) “And finally, the real zinger, if it can be made to work: an onslaught on the junk-food industry as a whole.”
Concludes the Independent: “As the mantra goes, ‘If you can’t regulate, litigate,’ and that is exactly what Professor Banzhaf has in mind.”