R Street Institute

This page was last edited on at

R Street Institute is a US think tank based in Washington D.C. It describes itself as a “nonpartisan, public policy research organization” with a “mission is to engage in policy research and outreach to promote free markets and limited, effective government.”1


R Street Institute was set up as a not-for-profit organisation in 2012 by former employees from the Heartland Institute and American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC),  and is a member of the State Policy Network.2 (See Think Tanks for more on ALEC and SPN).

Relationship with the Tobacco Industry

R Street Institute states that it is “funded by voluntary contributions from foundations, corporations and individuals” but does not disclose any details.3 However, Altria has made unspecified donations to the organisation between 2014 and 2020.4567 R Street Institute has also lobbied for the lower regulation and taxation of newer nicotine and tobacco products in the US and in low and middle-income countries (LMICs).

Current and former policy and research staff

  • Chelsea Boyd, Research Fellow, Harm Reduction, focusing on “decreasing harmful health outcomes for people who engage in high-risk behavior, such as smoking and recreational drug use”.8
  • Mazen Saleh, Policy Director, Integrated Harm Reduction.9
  • Pritika C. Kumar, Resident Senior Fellow for Integrated Harm Reduction Policy. Previously a regulatory scientist at Altria.10– Caroline Kitchens, former Director, Government Affairs, with a focus on agriculture, harm reduction and energy policy.11 Caroline joined R Street from the American Enterprise Institute (see Think Tanks page)
  • Brad Rodu, former Associate Fellow, focusing on “substituting safer tobacco products for smokers who are unable or unwilling to quit smoking with conventional cessation methods”. His research at the University of Louisville has been supported by tobacco industry funding.12
  • Joel Nitzkin, former Senior Fellow, Harm Reduction, worked on “shaping much of the R Street Institute tobacco control policy and speaking on behalf of such policy to state and local authorities, the American Medical Association and federal authorities”.13
  • Dr Edward Anselm, former Senior Fellow from 2015 to 2018. He published several articles advocating for looser regulations and easier access to newer nicotine products.1415

A full list of current staff can be found on the R Street Institute website.


One of the featured issues on R Street Institute’s website is harm reduction. It states that it “aims for integrated harm reduction with tobacco, opioid and sexual behavior” and that it believes “an ‘abstinence only’ approach to risky behaviours will not work on a population-wide basis”.16 As of April 2022, six out of the seven regulatory comments on harm reduction published on its website related to tobacco.17

Many of its publications and lobbying letters also echo tobacco industry arguments, including the need to regulate newer products differently from other tobacco products, and criticising bans on product flavourings.16 Some articles are also published on the Heartland Institute website.18

Lobbying in the US

  • Letter to the FDA, August 2017, supporting PMI’s Modified Risk Tobacco Product application for its HTP IQOS.19
  • Letter to the FDA , June 2018, regarding the potential lowering of nicotine levels in conventional cigarettes. Citing potential risks of illicit tobacco, the letter urged the FDA to avoid “excessive regulatory barriers” and “provide a risk-proportionate route to market for low-risk, non-combustible alternatives, such as e-cigarettes, heated tobacco [HTPs] and smokeless tobacco products.”20
  • Letter to the FDA, September 2018, urging the Food and Drug Administration to grant British American Tobacco /Reynolds American a Modified-Risk Tobacco Product (MRTP) status for its Camel snus, arguing that this would benefit public health.21
  • Letter to House Energy & Commerce Oversight & Investigations Subcommittee, February 2020, regarding the potential positive impact of e-cigarettes on public health. 22
  • Lobbying letters have also been sent to US district and city councils.232425

Lobbying in LMICs

R Street Institute has published press releases, articles and consultation submissions,26 in relation to tobacco control measures in low and middle-income countries:


A letter was sent to the Vietnamese Prime Minister in June 2020, calling for looser regulation on next generation products saying that: “these products present a public health opportunity to improve the lives of people who use combustible products and cannot or do not want to stop.”27 The letter also criticised the use of health warnings, standardized packaging and other evidence-based tobacco control measures in place in Vietnam.27


A press release was published in November 2020, promoting a policy paper titled “Exploring the Differences in Tobacco Policy between the United Kingdom and Thailand” which recommended the use of e-cigarettes to reduce smoking rates.2829

South Africa

Comments to a consultation on taxation of e-cigarettes were submitted in January 2022, arguing for lower taxes for “lower-risk products”. This also referred to PMI’s heated tobacco product IQOS and described HTPs inaccurately as “electronic nicotine delivery systems” (ENDS).30

Attended Concordia Summit

R Street Institute has attended the Concordia Summit, which is supported by Philip Morris International.3132

Relevant Link

R Street Institute website

TobaccoTactics Resources

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


  1. R Street Institute, Who We Are, website, undated, accessed March 2022
  2. The Centre for Media and Democracy, R Street Institute, Source Watch, undated, accessed June 2022
  3. R Street Institute, RSI PPP Statement, website, May 2020, accessed April 2022
  4. J. Glenza, S. Kelly, J. Adolphe, Free-market groups and the tobacco industry – full database, The Guardian,  January 2019, accessed November 2020
  5. S. Kaplan, M. Richtel, , New York Times (behind paywall), 15 March 2019, accessed April 2022
  6. Altria, 2019 Recipients of Charitable Contributions from the Altria Family of Companies, archived 20 March 2020, accessed April 2022
  7. Altria, 2020 Recipients of Charitable Contributions from the Altria Family of Companies, undated, accessed August 2022
  8. R street Institute, Chelsea Boyd profile, website, undated, accessed June 2022
  9. R Street Institute, Mazen Saleh profile, website, undated, archived October 2021, accessed March 2022
  10. R Street Institute, Pritika C. Kumar profile, website, undated, archived October 2021, accessed March 2022
  11. R Street Institute, Caroline Kitchens profile, undated, accessed November 2020
  12. R Street Institute, Brad Rodu profile, website, undated, accessed July 2021
  13. R Street Institute, Joel Nitzkin profile, undated, accessed November 2020
  14. R Street Institute, Edward Anselm publications and letters, website, undated, accessed November 2020
  15. E. Anselm, R Street Institute, Tobacco Harm Reduction Potential for ‘Heat Not Burn’, R Street Institute, website, By, 17 February 2017, accessed November 2020
  16. abR Street Institute, Harm Reduction, website, undated, accessed April 2022
  17. R Street Institute, Publications: Regulatory Comments, website, undated, accessed April 2022
  18. R Street Institute, The Role of Flavouring in Tobacco Harm Reduction, available from heartland Institute Website, December 2015, accessed June 2022
  19. R Street Institute Comment on IQOS Modified Risk Tobacco Application, available from Heartland Institute website, 23 August 2017, archived 25 April 2019, accessed April 2022
  20. R Street Institute, Docket No. FDA-2017-N-6189 (83 Fed. Reg. 11,818, March 16, 2018) Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on Tobacco Product Standard for Nicotine in Level of Certain Tobacco Products, 29 June 2018, accessed March 2022
  21. R Street Institute, Modified Risk Tobacco Product Applications: Applications for Six Camel Snus Smokeless Tobacco Products Submitted by R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, 18 September 2018, accessed November 2020
  22. R Street Institute, Letter to House Energy & Commerce Oversight & Investigations Subcommittee regarding e-cigarette manufacturers’ impact on public health, February 2020, accessed November 2020
  23. R Street Institute, Letter to Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness, October 2016, accessed November 2020
  24. S. Greenhut, Letter to Missoula City Council On Flavoured Tobacco Ban, R Street Institute website, 30 October 2020, accessed April 2022
  25. R Street Institute, Harm Reduction Publications, undated, accessed November 2020
  26. abR Street Institute, In Support of Risk-Proportionate Regulation of E-cigarettes and Heated Tobacco Products, June 2020, accessed November 2020
  27. R Street Institute, Thailand Should Follow the United Kingdom’s Lead: Examining Tobacco Policy Abroad, October 2020, accessed November 2020
  28. A. Ulasevich, C. Boyd, Exploring the Differences in Tobacco Policy between the United Kingdom and Thailand, 5 October 2020, accessed April 2021
  29. C. Boyd, Encouraging Risk-Proportionate Tobacco Regulation in South Africa, website, 25 January 2022, accessed March 2022
  30. R Street Institute, Important and innovative proposals to reduce the risk of smoking in the world, June 2018, accessed November 2020
  31. Concordia, Members, website, undated, accessed September 2021