Reason Foundation

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The Reason Foundation is an American think tank which describes its mission as “advancing a free society by developing, applying, and promoting libertarian principles, including individual liberty, free markets, and the rule of law”. It’s states that it aims to “change the way people think about issues, and promote policies that allow and encourage individuals and voluntary institutions to flourish”. It also identifies itself as an institution that engages in policy research.1

Relationship with the Tobacco Industry

Tobacco industry funding

The Reason Foundation has accepted funding from Altria since 2011.234

It reported receiving contributions worth close to US$14 million in its 2021 financial statements, however, no funders were named.5

Historical industry funding

  • The 1981/1982 Annual Report of the Reason Foundation listed Brown & Williamson Tobacco, a subsidiary of British American Tobacco, as a “Contributor”.6
  • Philip Morris USA’s 1993 contribution report disclosed contributing $10,000 to the Reason Foundation in 1993, and $40,000 in the previous year as “General Support”.7
  • Philip Morris USA also reported contributions of $20,000 in 2000, with a similar sum proposed for the following year.8

Communicating Pro-Tobacco Messages

The think tank has a number of different communication channels, namely, Reason magazine, a blog and a TV channel. Each of these channels has promoted anti-regulation messages in relation to tobacco tax measures, plain packaging, regulations to control e-cigarette use and menthol bans.9

There has also been repeated criticism of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) and its approach to harm reduction.101112

Interference at COP

The FCTC Conference of the Parties (COP) is the governing body which keeps the implementation of the FCTC under review.13


In September 2016, a few weeks before COP7, Julian Morris, the Reason Foundation’s Vice President of Research, authored a policy brief in which he argued that the World Health Organization’s (WHO) opposition to tobacco harm reduction was a threat to public health. He accused the FCTC of being a threat to good governance and transparency, because the two preceding COPs in 2012 and 2014 did not allow the participation of the “affected”, namely, tobacco users, vendors, and farmers. According to Morris, the WHO ought to be in favour of e-cigarettes and harm reduction.14


In February 2021, the UK All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Vaping, set up an inquiry into COP 9 “to collect evidence and issue a report on the FCTC’s Conference of Parties 9”.15 Guy Bentley, director of Consumer Freedom at the Reason Foundation,16 made a submission to the inquiry which supported the use of “reduced-risk nicotine products” and criticised the FCTC for a lack of focus on harm reduction strategies.17

It also argued that “As a consequence of sidelining harm reduction strategies and limiting input for evidence and guidance, the FCTC has failed to achieve its aim of reducing tobacco use”, and that there was a lack of diversity in voices heard around harm reduction.17

Tobacco Tax

The Reason Foundation has regularly argued against tobacco tax increases in the United States (US), using common industry arguments.

In 2021, it spoke out against proposed federal tobacco and nicotine product tax increases, stating that “high taxes don’t push most smokers to quit” and that the changes would unfairly impact low and middle-income Americans. It also argued that tax increases could fuel tobacco smuggling, threaten community safety, and lead to job losses among retailers.1819

Prior to this, the Reason Foundation strongly opposed proposed tobacco tax increases in three states in the US in 2016, arguing that the government was making money at the expense of smokers.202122 It engaged in a similar campaign in 2014, claiming that in Canada, increased tobacco tax led to an increase in the illicit tobacco trade.23

Newer nicotine and tobacco products

The Reason Foundation has argued that increased regulations around the sale and use of e-cigarettes would harm public health.242526 It has also opposed tax increases on e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products (HTPs), arguing that they would be highly regressive and have a devastating impact on public health.27

The Reason Foundation has published articles supporting the use of HTPs, including PMI’s IQOS.2829 It has also stated “This harm-reduction approach offers a win-win whereby businesses and jobs are created and thrive by making it as enjoyable as possible for people to quit smoking”.30

Menthol and flavoured tobacco products

The Reason Foundation has regularly opposed banning the use of menthol as a characterizing flavour in cigarettes in the US, again using common industry arguments.

In July 2022, it submitted a public comment to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) arguing that the proposed US-wide ban31 “will not present significant public health benefits” and “prohibition will result in a host of unintended consequences, including increased tobacco smuggling, burdens on law enforcement, and more frequent interactions between law enforcement and minority communities”.9

It has also published several articles opposing the ban, regularly using the arguments that it would create an illicit market that would disproportionally effect black people,3233 and that the federal government was denying their “moral agency”.34

In February 2023, Reason Foundation policy analyst, Jacob James Rich, published a non peer-reviewed analysis of cigarette sales in Massachusetts, following the state’s ban on the sale of flavoured tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes, in 2020.3536 This paper stated that as a result of the law, an increase in cigarettes sales was seen in the states boarding Massachusetts, outweighing the sales decline of menthol cigarettes in Massachusetts. However, research has shown that most neighbouring states did not see increases in overall tobacco sales;37 any increases that were seen, were not statistically significant;38 and the decline in cigarette sales in Massachusetts greatly outweighed any increase in bordering states.3940

An associated commentary article published by the Reason Foundation also stated that the ban “primarily sent buyers to other states and illicit markets, so other cities and states should consider the real-world impacts of implementing similar prohibitions”. However, evidence of an increase in illicit trade is not provided.41 Academic research shows that menthol bans are effective public health measures, and there is little evidence that they increase illicit trade.

The Reason Foundation has spoken out against other US state flavoured tobacco product bans, including those proposed in Denver,42 Colorado43 and New York.44

Plain Packaging

The Reason Foundation has spoken out against plain packaging, claiming that the policy would not stop smokers from smoking.45

Staff with tobacco industry links

The Reason Foundation provides a list of its staff on its website.46 The following staff member has a history of tobacco industry engagement:

  • Jacob Sullum, Senior Editor of Reason Magazine, has been a member of the Foundation since the late 1980s. He published many books, articles and reports favourable to the tobacco industry and was featured in a tobacco industry-led campaign against second hand smoking regulations.474849505152
  • Guy Bentley, Director of Consumer Freedom, and Editor of the Reason Foundation’s Harm Reduction Newsletter, previously contributed to a report on “sin taxes” by the Adam Smith Institute (ASI).16 ASI has a history of accepting funding from the tobacco industry.

TobaccoTactics Resources

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  1. Reason Foundation, About Us, undated, accessed September 2022
  2. Altria, Altria Grantees List 2011,website, undated, accessed April 2023
  3. Altria, Altria Grantees List 2021, website, undated, accessed September 2022
  4. Altria, Altria Grantees List 2022, website, undated, accessed April 2023
  5. The Reason Foundation, Financial statements for the year ended September 30, 2021, 2021, accessed October 2022
  6. T. Gage, , R. Sheaffer, R. Kidwell et al. The Reason Foundation: Annual Report, Fiscal Year 1981/82, Tobacco Institute Records; RPCI Tobacco Institute and Council for Tobacco Research Records. Truth Tobacco Industry Documents, Bates no: TI12770195-TI12770218, accessed December 2016
  7. Unknown, 1993 Corporate Contributions Report for PM USA/NYO, Truth Tobacco Industry Documents, Bates no: 930000, accessed December 2016
  8. Unknown, Public Policy Grants Proposed 2001 Budget, Philip Morris Records, Truth Tobacco Industry Documents, Bates no: 20010000, accessed December 2016
  9. abReason Foundation, submission to Dr. Robert Califf, Commissioner, Food and Drug Administration, Docket No. FDA-2021-N-1349 Tobacco Product Standard for Menthol in Cigarettes, July 2022, accessed October 2022
  10. G. Bentley/Reason Foundation, Four reasons to reject a federal tobacco tax increase, commentary, October 2021, accessed October 2022
  11. Reason Foundation, The FDA’s New and Improved Cigarette Warning Labels, Video, August 2021, accessed October 2022
  12. Reason Foundation, Welcome to the nicotine prohibition era, magazine, May 2022, accessed October 2022
  13. WHO FCTC, Conference of the Parties to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, undated, accessed February 2017
  14. J. Morris/Reason Foundation, Reason Foundation Policy Brief No. 136 – The WHO’s Opposition to Tobacco Harm Reduction: A Threat to Public Health?, website, 2016, accessed December 2016
  15. All Party Parliamentary Group for Vaping, COP INQUIRY, website homepage, archived 27 November 2020, accessed February 2020
  16. abReason Foundation, Guy Bentley, website, undated, accessed July 2019
  17. abAPPG for Vaping (E-Cigarettes), COP Enquiry website: Submissions, undated, accessed March 2021
  18. G. Bentley/Reason Foundation, Congress considers tobacco tax increase, website, October 2021, accessed November 2021
  19. G.Bentley, Four reasons to reject a federal tobacco tax increase, Reason Foundation, October 2021, accessed July 2022
  20. B. Fojtik/Reason Foundation, North Dakota’s Cigarette Tax Measure Looks Like a Blank Check for Government Spending, website, 2016, accessed December 2016
  21. B. Fojtik/Reason Foundation, Cigarette Taxes and Spending Requirements for Anti-Tobacco Programs Don’t Belong In Colorado’s State Constitution, Reason Foundation, 2016, accessed December 2016
  22. B. Fojtik/Reason Foundation, California Shouldn’t Create Constitutional Workarounds to Target Smokers With Tax Increases, Reason Foundation, 2016, accessed December 2016
  23. K. Furtick, C. Malcolm, A. Randazzo/Reason Foundation, Reason Foundation Policy Brief No. 113 – The Effect of Cigarette Tax Rates on Illicit Trade: Lessons Learned in Canada, website, 2014, accessed December 2016
  24. J. Sullum/Reason Foundation, California Bill to Restrict E-Cigarettes Would Harm Public Health, website, 2015, accessed December 2016
  25. J. Morris, A.U. Khan/Reason Foundation, The Vapour Revolution: How Bottom-Up Innovation Is Saving Lives and Prospects for India, Reason Foundation, August 2016, accessed December 2016
  26. Reason Foundation, Harm Reduction Newsletter, website, archived September 2021, accessed October 2022
  27. G.Bentley/ Reason Foundation, House Democrats’ tax on e-cigarettes would lead to millions more smokers, Reason Foundation, November 2021, accessed February 2022
  28. G.Bentley/Reason Foundation, Nicotine and Harm Reduction Newsletter – May 2019, Reason Foundation, May 2019, Septmeber 2020
  29. G.Bentley/Reason Foundation, FDA Says IQOS Tobacco Products Reduce Exposure to Harmful Chemicals Found In Cigarette Smoke, Reason Foundation, July 2020, accessed August 2020
  30. G.Bentley/Reason Foundation, Heat-Not-Burn Tobacco: The Next Wave Of A Harm-Reduction Revolution, Reason Foundation, March 2017, accessed December 2020
  31. Food and Drug Administration, FDA Proposes Rules Prohibiting Menthol Cigarettes and Flavored Cigars to Prevent Youth Initiation, Significantly Reduce Tobacco-Related Disease and Death, press release, 28 April 2022, accessed May 2022
  32. G. Bentley/Reason Foundation, 10 Reasons Why the FDA Should Not Ban Menthol Cigarettes, Reason Foundation, commentary, April 2021, archived May 2022, accessed October 2022
  33. M. Minton/Reason Foundation, The FDA’s deadly menthol miscalculation, Reason Foundation, commentary, August 2022, accessed October 2022
  34. J.Sullum/Reason Foundation, The FDA’s Menthol Cigarette Ban Is a ‘Racial Justice’ Issue, but Not in the Way Its Supporters Mean, Reason magazine, 28 April 2022, accessed April 2023
  35. J.J. Rich, Estimates of Cross-Border Menthol Cigarette Sales Following the Comprehensive Tobacco Flavor Ban in Massachusetts, medRxiv, Preprint, 27 April 2022, doi: 10.1101/2022.04.24.22274236
  36. Reason Foundation, Reason Foundation Experts: Jacob James Rich, website, accessed May 2023
  37. M. Kingsley, H. McGinnes, G. Song et al, Impact of Massachusetts’ Statewide Sales Restriction on Flavored and Menthol Tobacco Products on Tobacco Sales in Massachusetts and Surrounding States, June 2020, Am J Public Health, August 2022; 112(8): pp 1147–1150. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2022.306879
  38. FRM. Ali, BA. King, EL.Seaman, et al, Impact of Massachusetts law prohibiting flavored tobacco products sales on cross-border cigarette sales. September 2022. PLoS ONE 17(9): e0274022. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0274022
  39. S. Asare, A. Majmundar, J. Lee Westmaas , Spatial Analysis of Changes in Cigarette Sales in Massachusetts and Bordering States Following the Massachusetts Menthol Flavor Ban. JAMA Network Open, September 2022; 1;5(9):e2232103. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2022.32103
  40. Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, Impact of restricting the sale of flavoured tobacco products: the Massachusetts experience, 4 April 2023, accessed April 2023
  41. JJ. Rich, J.Campbell/Reason Foundation, Commentary: The effect of menthol bans on cigarette sales: Evidence from Massachusetts, Reason Foundation, February 2023, accessed April 2023
  42. G. Bentley/Reason Foundation, Denver shouldn’t ban flavored tobacco products, Reason Foundation, December 2021, accessed February 2022
  43. G. Bentley/Reason Foundation, Colorado should rethink potential tobacco prohibitions, Reason Foundation, March 2022, accessed March 2022
  44. G. Bentley/Reason Foundation, New York shouldn’t ban flavored tobacco products, Reason Foundation, February 2023, accessed March 2023
  45. J. Morris/ Reason Foundation, Reason Foundation Policy Brief No. 117 – Smoking, Plain Packaging and Public Health, Reason Foundation, 2014, accessed December 2016, archived April 2023
  46. Reason Foundation, Staff Index, undated, accessed September 2022
  47. Reason Foundation, Reason Foundation Experts: Jacob Sullum, accessed December 2016
  48. S.W. Moskowitz, J.H. Robinson. RJ Reynolds Records, WEBSITE. 1999 August 17; 1999 August 18, Truth Tobacco Industry Documents, Bates no: 531907107-531907111, December 2016
  49. T. Borelli. 1995 October 11. Sullum, Philip Morris Records, Truth Tobacco Industry Documents, Bates no: 2048852841B, accessed December 2016
  50. D. Colby. Philip Morris Records, Ads Jacob Sullum /Media Critic. 1995 October 17, Truth Tobacco Industry Documents, Bates no: 2048852778, accessed December 2016
  51. D.J. Theroux. RJ Reynolds Records. Independent institute. Our phone call, 2000 October 23, Truth Tobacco Industry Documents, Bates no: 532132812-532132814, December 2016
  52. Philip Morris, T. Borelli. Philip Morris Records. Unknown. 1994 August 31, Truth Tobacco Industry Documents, Bates no: 2072494406, December 2016