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Black pastor offered tobacco industry money to oppose menthol ban

A prominent Detroit Black pastor was offered hundreds of thousands of dollars, allegedly from tobacco giant RJ Reynolds, to lead a campaign against banning the sale of menthol cigarettes in the U.S. The company sells America’s most popular brand of menthol cigarettes, Newport.

The Food and Drug Administration has announced plans to ban the sale of menthol cigarettes, the flavor of choice, the FDA said, for 85% of Black smokers.

In May, The Rev. Horace Sheffield, the pastor of the New Destiny Christian Fellowship and the head of the Detroit Association of Black Organizations, wrote an editorial for the Detroit Free Press, arguing that the FDA’s action would help “stem the tide of preventable disease and death” among Black smokers who for decades have been targeted by the tobacco industry.

Shortly after the editorial was published, Sheffield said he received a series of texts and a phone call from someone who identified themselves as working with RJ Reynolds. He was offered $50K to $100K to be the local and Midwest hub for a campaign about stopping the menthol ban. The offer was later increased to $200K to $250K.

“I felt as if my entire ethical constitution was being challenged. I felt as if I was being asked to do something that was completely against the grain of who I am and what I stood for,” said Sheffield.

See “Detroit pastor says he was offered $250,000 to oppose menthol cigarette ban” by Ben Stockton on the Detroit Free Press website (August 25, 2022)