DETROIT (WXYZ) — Reverend Horace Sheffield says his legacy is not for sale at any price.
“Absolutely, I’m walking away from people’s lives being saved,” he told 7 Action News.
R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company tried to pay Sheffield to speak out about a proposed Food and Drug Administration ban on menthol cigarettes even after he took a public position.
Sheffield wrote an op-ed piece in the Detroit Free Press in May in favor of the ban, using the words “smoking kills.” The FDA says 85% of African American smokers use menthol.
That raised the offer, Sheffield told 7 Action News, to go up to $250,000.
“I can get you more money if you say you were opposed of the ban, but you thought about it and changed your mind,” Sheffield said of the person doing the bidding for Reynolds. He won’t say who that is.
The Sheffield Center on Detroit’s west side was founded by his father and has been helping the community for decades. And smoking is personal for Sheffield, saying it killed his mother.
R. J. Reynolds has issued statements about this that include:
“Reynolds supports organizations that contribute to the debate on issues that are important to our consumers. We strongly believe there are more effective ways to deliver tobacco harm reduction than banning menthol in cigarettes.”
Sheffield says this is more than business.
“To basically stab us in the back to basically engage as pallbearers carrying out coffins to the cemetery with a cigarette in our mouths,” he said.
The FDA took public input on the proposed ban for months leading up to this month. It is not clear when a ban may go into effect.