Heartland Institute

This page was last edited on at

Founded in Chicago in 1984, the Institute initially concentrated on influencing public policy at a local level but has grown in size and ambition.
In 2019 it reported a full-time staff of 39 and described itself as “an action tank as well as a think tank”. Its objective is to “discover, develop and promote free-market solutions to social and economic problems.”1

The Institute has a long association with the tobacco industry and echoes its arguments in a number of areas through policy briefs, lobbying and media appearances.


Its 2018 annual report said that it received $5.8m in funding of which 70% came from individuals, 22% from foundations and 6% from corporations.2 However the institute says that due to attacks by critics it no longer publishes a list of its donors. It adds that it has procedures in place to “protect our writers and editors from undue influence by donors”.3

Nonetheless, tobacco industry funding stretches back to at least the 1990s. Roy Marden, Philip Morris International’s then manager of industry affairs, received a letter from Heartland president Joseph Blast in 1999. Blast hoped that PMI would increase the $30,000 it gave the previous year. Blast wrote: “Heartland has devoted considerable attention to defending tobacco (and other industries) from what I view as being an unjust campaign of public demonization and legal harassment. We’re an important voice defending smokers and their freedom to use a still-legal product.” 4 Tobacco company Altria is known to have donated to the Institute in 2011, and annually from 2013 to 2016.5

“Consumer Freedom Lounge”

The Institute has a dedicated area on its website, called the ‘Consumer Freedom Lounge’, to promote its thinking on alcohol and smoking. It says that it is the “place to go for sound science, economics, and legal commentary on tobacco issues”.6 In this area it has published a number of articles challenging the science around second-hand smoke, arguing against smoking bans and tax increases and supporting e-cigarettes.
Under the heading ‘Tobacco Control’ it states that:

“government regulators have gone well beyond reasonable measures to discourage smoking and protect nonsmokers, and they are now waging all-out war on smokers. That’s wrong. Federal, state, and local government in the United States have used excise taxes, smoking bans, and other regulations in an attempt discourage cigarette use, but those are having little effect on smoking rates.”6

This section has resources to support lobbying around tobacco issues including policy briefs such as Five Things to Consider Before Raising Tobacco Taxes This states that taxation is more burdensome to poorer people, that tobacco tax increases lead to an increase in “black market” or illicit tobacco, and that they might reduce government revenue. All are arguments commonly used by the tobacco industry.7

The ‘Consumer Freedom Lounge’ hosts a video in which Brad Rodu “discuss vaping from a scientific and industry perspective”. Rodu is Professor of Medicine at the University of Louisville and has a blog called Tobacco Truth. Some of his research has been funded by tobacco companies and has been openly declared as such.8

Lobbying on E-Cigarettes

A regular writer for Heartland on e-cigarette and vaping issues is Lindsey Stroud. She joined the organisation in 2016 having worked for various politicians. In 2017 she became the Institute’s State Government Relations Manager.9

Stroud regularly argues for loosening regulations around e-cigarettes.10. She is a board member of THR4Life , a tobacco ‘harm reduction’ lobby group registered as a charity which has lobbied the WHO on e-cig regulations11 and the US  Food and Drug Administration.12

Relevant TobaccoTactics Resources

TCRG Research

Visit Tobacco Control Research Group: Peer-Reviewed Research for a full list of our journal articles of tobacco industry influence on health policy.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


  1. Heartland Institute, About Us, website, undated, accessed July 2019
  2. 2018 Prospectus, accessed July 2019
  3. Heartland Institute, Reply to our critics, website, undated, accessed July 2019
  4. J.Blast letter, Letter, Heartland website, 27 July 1999, accessed July 2019
  5. Think tank database, The Guardian, 23 January 2019, accessed July 2019
  6. abHeartland Institute, Consumer Freedom Lounge, webiste, undated, accessed July 2019
  7. Heartland Institute, Five Things to Consider Before Raising Tobacco Taxes, Policy Brief, July 2011, accessed July 2019
  8. Brad Rodu, Tobacco Truth, website, archived 3 July 2019, accessed March 2020
  9. Lindsey Stroud, Heartland Institute website, undated, accessed July 2019
  10. L.Stroud, Lawmakers should embrace tobacco harm reduction devices, Heartland website, 27 June 2019, accessed July 2019
  11. THR4Life RE: Non-communicable Diseases and Their Risk Factors, Letter to WHO Independent High-Level Commission on NCDs, 16 May 2018, accessed July 2019
  12. Complaint, Submission to the US District Court, Minnesota, 30 January 2018, accessed July 2019