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R Street Institute

Updated in August 2020


R Street Institute was established by Eli Lehrer, a former employee of the Heartland Institute, an organization which had previously accepted donations from Altria (owner of Philip Morris USA) in 2011, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016.[1],[2] The Institute identifies itself as “a nonprofit, nonpartisan, public policy research organization…(with the) mission to engage in policy research and outreach to promote free markets and limited, effective government.”[3]

Relationship with Tobacco Industry

In addition to the founder’s prior connections with the tobacco industry, R Street Institute also received funding directly from Altria from 2014 to 2017.[4],[5]

Other activities

Harm reduction is one of the Institute’s focus issues, led by Chelsea Boyd.[6] The Institute has stated that their harm reduction program applies to sexuality education and HIV, but more than half of Chelsea’s work is related to supporting electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) and heated tobacco products (HTPs).[7] Their latest harm reduction work was a podcast released in July 2020 – The Vaping Weekly Podcast: Chelsea Boyd of R Street Institute; IQOS MRTP; Australia Update; this podcast covered IQOS approvals and modified risk product approvals.[8] The founder, Eli Lehrer, also published an article focusing on smoking among LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) individuals, stating that “…switching [to ENDS/HTPs] should never be a first effort, but it’s worth looking at when all else fails.”[9]


[1] The Guardian, Think Tank Database, [online] At https://web.archive.org/web/20190709135715/https://www.theguardian.com/world/ng-interactive/2019/jan/23/free-market-thinktanks-tobacco-control-polices-database#0/?american-conservative-union-foundation
[2] Influence Watch, R Street Institute, [online] At https://www.influencewatch.org/non-profit/r-street-institute/#donor-orgs
[3] R Street Institute, Who we are, [online] At https://www.rstreet.org/about-r-street/
[4] The Guardian, Think Tank Database, [online] At https://web.archive.org/web/20190709135715/https://www.theguardian.com/world/ng-interactive/2019/jan/23/free-market-thinktanks-tobacco-control-polices-database#0/?reason-foundation
[5] Altria, Grantees list, [online] At https://web.archive.org/web/20180821173125/https:/www.altria.com/Responsibility/Investing-In-Communities/Documents/GranteesList.pdf
[6] R Street Institute, About Chelsea, [online] At https://www.rstreet.org/team/chelsea-boyd/
[7] R Street Institute, Harm Reduction, [online] At https://www.rstreet.org/issue/harm-reduction/
[8] R Street Institute, Podcast: The Vaping Weekly Podcast: Chelsea Boyd of R Street Institute; IQOS MRTP; Australia Update, [online] At https://www.rstreet.org/2020/07/20/podcast-the-vaping-weekly-podcast-chelsea-boyd-of-r-street-institute-iqos-mrtp-australia-update/
[9] Eli Lehrer, Re: The Gay Way on Smoking, [online] At https://www.nationalreview.com/corner/re-gay-war-smoking-eli-lehrer/