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Altria Group (NYSE:MO)
Q2 2020 Earnings Call
Jul 28, 2020, 9:00 a.m. ET

Contents:

  • Prepared Remarks
  • Questions and Answers
  • Call Participants

Prepared Remarks:


Operator

Good day, and welcome to Altria Group 2020 second-quarter and first-half earnings conference call. Today's call is scheduled to last about one hour, including remarks by Altria management and a question-and-answer session. Representatives of the investment community and media on the call will be able to ask questions following the conclusion of the prepared remarks. I would now like to turn the call over to Mr.

Mac Livingston, vice president of investor relations for Altria Client Services. Please go ahead, sir.

Mac Livingston -- Vice President of Investor Relations

Thanks, Adrianne. Good morning and thank you for joining us. This morning, Billy Gifford, Altria's CEO; and Sal Mancuso, our CFO, will discuss Altria's second-quarter business results. Earlier today, we issued a press release providing our results.

The release, presentation and quarterly metrics are all available on our website at altria.com and through the Altria Investor app. During our call today, unless otherwise stated, we're comparing results to the same period in 2019. Our remarks contain forward-looking and cautionary statements and projections of future results. Please review the forward-looking and cautionary statement section at the end of today's earnings release for various factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from projections.

Future dividend payments and share repurchases remain subject to the discretion of Altria's board. Altria reports its financial results in accordance with U.S. generally accepted accounting principles. Today's call will contain various operating results on both a reported and adjusted basis.

Adjusted results exclude special items that affect comparisons with reported results. Descriptions of these non-GAAP financial measures and reconciliations are included in today's earnings release and on our website at altria.com. With that, I'll turn the call over to Billy.

Billy Gifford -- Chief Executive Officer

Thanks, Mac. Good morning, everyone, and thank you for joining us. Despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S., our employees continue to execute against our 10-year vision with strong focus and commitment. Over the first half of 2020, we believe Altria showed resilience in volatile market conditions, growing adjusted diluted earnings per share by 8.5%, driven by the outstanding financial performance of our core tobacco businesses.

Combined, the smokable and oral tobacco products segments grew adjusted OCI by nearly 11% and expanded adjusted OCI margins by nearly two and a half percentage points. We've also hit key milestones and made steady progress behind our noncombustible product portfolio. Specifically, FDA's recent authorization will permit PM USA to market IQOS and HeatSticks as Modified Risk Tobacco Products with a reduced exposure claim. PM USA launched IQOS in Charlotte, its third lead market.

Helix submitted PMTAs with the FDA for all 35 on! products, which are now in scientific review. And Helix continues to expand manufacturing capacity and distribution for on! We're excited to reaccelerate our engagement with adult smokers, looking for alternatives to their traditional cigarettes in pursuit of our vision to responsibly lead the transition of adult smokers to a noncombustible future. Before diving deeper into our business results, I'd like to take a moment to address the social change under way in the United States and globally. Like many other companies, we're operating in the context of important and long overdue societal change.

The recent senseless death of black Americans show that systemic racism and social injustice still widely exist today. Our black and brown colleagues have faced these injustices for far too long. Black lives matter, and we must take meaningful actions to drive long-lasting change. We understand the significant work ahead of us, and we have taken a number of initial steps, including holding courageous conversations that provide a safe platform for our black colleagues to share their experiences as others seek to listen and understand; partnering with UNIFI, our black employee network, to identify internal opportunities and create action plans; supporting the responsible removal of Confederate statutes in our hometown; on June 19, raising the Juneteenth flag at our facilities and declared the day a company-paid holiday for healing and reflection; and committing an initial $5 million to primarily support criminal justice reform and black-owned business development.

Earlier this year, we established aspirational inclusion and diversity aiming points for our organization. We recognize that achieving our 10-year vision will require us to think and act differently. Our organization needs to better reflect the diversity of the world around us. And all of our employees should feel fully included and empowered to contribute to our success.

These aiming points include achieving at our VP and above levels, 50-50 gender parity and a composition of at least 30% ethnically diverse executives, which we determine using the composition of the U.S. college educated workforce and projections of population demographic changes. Currently, approximately 30% of our VPs are women, and 15% are ethnically diverse. We're committed to driving change.

We're holding ourselves accountable and expect to report on progress periodically. This is a top priority for Altria and the communities where we live and work. Let's now turn to our results. Altria's second-quarter adjusted diluted earnings per share grew nearly 1% from the prior year as growth in our adjusted operating companies income was offset by lower contributions from our equity investments in ABI.

We believe a mix of macroeconomic factors in the second quarter influenced adult tobacco consumer behavior. While the pandemic led to historic unemployment rates, federal government efforts, through stimulus checks and increased unemployment benefits, helped to ease economic hardship for low- and middle-income Americans. And these efforts have likewise benefited our adult tobacco consumers. As a result of local restrictions, we believe adult tobacco consumers reduced purchases from nontobacco discretionary items, like gas, transit and entertainment, contributing to an increase in available discretionary income.

Adult tobacco consumers continued to make fewer trips to the store but increased their tobacco expenditures by buying more packs and cans per trip. We also believe fewer social engagements allow for more tobacco usage occasions. All of these factors contributed to improved tobacco industry volume performance in the second quarter. Moving to our reporting segments.

Our smokable products segment strategy is to maximize profitability while appropriately balancing investments in Marlboro with funding the growth of our noncombustible products. In the second quarter, adjusted OCI increased 3.3%, driven by higher pricing and lower cost, which more than offset lower volumes. For the first half, this segment generated strong adjusted OCI growth of 10.9%. Second-quarter reported domestic cigarette volumes in the smokable products segment decreased by 8.8%, which primarily reflected the impact of trade inventory movements in both the current and prior-year periods.

For the first half, reported domestic cigarette volumes decreased 1.9%. When adjusted for trade inventories, calendar differences, and other factors, first-half cigarette volumes decreased by an estimated 3%. For the industry, we estimate adjusted domestic cigarette volumes were unchanged in the second quarter compared to the year-ago period and declined 1% for the first half. As we discussed in our first-quarter earnings results, first-quarter industry volumes benefited from pantry loading in March, and we expected to see this payback in the second quarter.

Due to the macroeconomic factors we described earlier that impacted adult tobacco consumers' behavior, we saw only minimal volume payback in the second quarter as underlying demand remained consistent across the quarter. Looking over the past four quarters, adjusted domestic cigarette volume declines steadily moderated since the third quarter of 2019, driven primarily by a reduction cross-category movement. The cigarette category has demonstrated resilience. And based on year-to-date industry volume performance, we revised our 2020 estimated full-year adjusted cigarette industry volume decline rate to a range of 2% to 3.5% from our previous estimate of 4% to 6%.

Marlboro's second-quarter retail share of the total cigarette category was 42.8%, down 0.6% versus the year-ago period. As you'll recall earlier this year, we noted an increase in the number of adult smokers aged 50-plus who moved from the e-vapor category back into cigarettes, benefiting volumes from Marlboro and the cigarette category. This demographic has a greater tendency to purchase discount brands than younger adult smokers, which increased discount segment share at the start of the year. We believe the effect of this dynamic will have a lingering impact on Marlboro's year-over-year retail share comparisons through 2020.

Sequentially, Marlboro was stable in the second quarter. We believe PM USA's strategic investments in innovative loyalty programs, resealable packaging and its leading trade programs reinforce the strength of Marlboro and position it well to deliver on its long-term profit potential. In discount, total segment retail share grew 0.4% year over year but declined 0.3% sequentially to 24.5%. Sequential share losses in both branded and deep discount products drove the discount share contraction.

We continue to be pleased with the performance of PM USA's branded discount offerings and their increased profitability over time. For both our industry volume and down-trading expectations, we will continue to monitor the factors we described earlier that influenced adult tobacco consumer behavior in the first half. We believe our smokeable businesses have the right tools in place to help successfully navigate through these uncertain times. Turning now to our noncombustible portfolio.

We're excited to continue expanding our noncombustible product offerings and making progress toward our 10-year vision. We believe all tobacco products, e-vapor, and heated tobacco present significant opportunities for adult smoker conversion to noncombustible products. The strategy of our oral tobacco products segment is to maximize profitability over time in traditional MST through the strength of Copenhagen and to responsibly and rapidly grow on! oral nicotine pouches. The oral tobacco products segment grew adjusted OCI by 8.1% in the second quarter and 10.5% for the first half, driven by higher pricing and volume, which more than offset investments in on! Reported domestic oral tobacco products segment volumes increased 2.8% in the first half.

When adjusted for calendar differences, trade inventory movements and other factors, volumes were unchanged in the first half. For the oral tobacco industry, volumes increased by an estimated 6% over the last six months, driven by the growth of oral nicotine pouches. In the second quarter, total oral tobacco products segment retail share declined three percentage points to 50%. Copenhagen's retail share declined two percentage points to 32.1%, primarily driven by the growth of oral nicotine pouches.

We're excited about the progress Helix is making in oral nicotine pouches. Helix' top priorities are to increase manufacturing capacity and expand on!'s retail footprint. Helix continues to install manufacturing equipment and expects to remove capacity constraints in 2021. Retail distribution for on! continues to steadily increase.

And Helix expects to continue its store expansion this year. At the end of the second quarter, on! was sold in the top six chains for oral tobacco volumes and in over 40,000 stores, an increase of nearly 43% since the first quarter. Helix is testing various go-to-market strategies for on!, including the use of our innovative tobacco product fixture space at retail. We believe on! is proving to be a competitive product and has been successful with both adult smokers and dippers.

Based on our analysis of purchases in a large convenience chain, 37% of on!'s purchasers were exclusive cigarette smokers as compared with 23% for Zyn. on!'s ability to attract adult smokers is important in achieving our 10-year vision, as today, there are approximately 40 million U.S. adult smokers compared with approximately 6 million U.S. adult dippers.

We attribute on!'s early success to the variety of nicotine strengths and flavors in its portfolio. Additionally, on! is attracting female tobacco consumers due to its spitless, white and compact format. on!'s rectangular-shaped packaging also distinguishes it from traditional MST products. Our data indicates that women now account for 30% of adult oral tobacco-derived nicotine consumers as compared to only 5% of adult dippers.

We believe our ability to successfully navigate the regulatory process and communicate potentially reduced harm benefits of our noncombustible tobacco products is critical to achieving our vision. In May, Helix submitted comprehensive PMTAs for all 35 on! SKUs with the FDA, and in June, the FDA moved the applications into scientific review. We've also started the foundational work for a future modified risk application for on!. In e-vapor, total estimated volumes in the second quarter decreased 14% versus a year ago.

We believe the e-vapor category growth may encounter a pause over the next few years as many products will be removed from the market if PMTAs are not submitted or FDA does not grant market authorization. All manufacturers are required to submit PMTAs by September 9. In heated tobacco, we're very pleased with the recent FDA authorization to market IQOS as a modified-risk tobacco product with a reduced exposure claim. IQOS is the first next-generation product to receive an MRTP and meet the standard of benefiting the population as a whole.

PM USA is making the necessary preparations to communicate the reduced exposure claim to adult smokers, which includes developing new marketing assets and submitting them to the FDA in advance of using them. We view this as a significant step toward our vision, and we're looking forward to communicating with adult smokers the additional benefits of switching to IQOS. We're excited to get back on track with our IQOS rollout and our future expansion plans to accelerate adult smoker conversion. As many parts of the country began lifting restrictions in June, PM USA reopened the Atlanta and Richmond IQOS boutiques, and just last week, launched IQOS in its third lead market by opening a boutique in the SouthPark mall in Charlotte.

In Charlotte, PM USA launched a more disruptive retail fixture that communicates the benefits of real tobacco, no ash and less odor, and expects to begin HeatStick distribution to retail stores in the next few weeks. By the end of August, we expect HeatSticks to be in a total of 700 retail stores across the three lead markets. PM USA will continue to leverage its IQOS retail ecosystem, including IQOS mobile, pop-up, and kiosk retail formats, which allows for more strategic and agile marketing plans. We're making several digital enhancements to the IQOS website.

The website now includes virtual tutorials and the expert video chat functionality will be available this fall. These digital enhancements and the ability to have devices delivered to smokers in lead markets with the proper age verification will provide smokers with flexible options to learn about and access IQOS. Over the next 18 months, PM USA plans to launch IQOS in four new markets with large adult smoker populations and expand the availability of IQOS devices through retail partnerships. PM USA also plans to expand HeatStick distribution to the surrounding geographies in all seven IQOS markets.

PM USA expects to use its first-mover advantage to expand IQOS responsibly and in a disciplined manner. Our commercialization strategy is based on the learnings from our IQOS lead markets and PMI's international results, paired with our desire to continue avoiding use by unintended audiences. We believe that a sustained focus on the consumer journey from awareness to conversion is the key to achieving our vision. Word of mouth among IQOS users and their fellow adult smokers has been a critical factor to the global success of IQOS.

Our commercialization approach is designed to maximize the organic growth potential of IQOS by focusing first on the densely populated metro areas and then expanding outwards as the user base grows. Our IQOS agreement with PMI has two important milestones. First, PM USA would maintain exclusive license for IQOS upon achieving a five-tenth dollar share of the cigarette category in a single geographic area within a specified time period by April 2022. And second, our distribution agreement has an initial five-year term expiring in April 2024.

The initial term has a performance objective of reaching a five-tenth dollar share of the cigarette category in a certain number of geographic areas, each within a specified time period. Once achieved, PM USA has the option to renew for an additional five-year term. Based on the early results we've seen in Atlanta and Richmond and our robust expansion plans, we believe PM USA will achieve their performance objectives. We're excited to continue building IQOS momentum and executing our expansion plans.

Turning to guidance. We've seen outstanding performance from our core tobacco businesses in the first half. Because we now have a better understanding of COVID-19 impacts on adult tobacco consumer purchasing behavior and an additional quarter of ABI earnings contributions, we're reestablishing full-year 2020 adjusted diluted EPS guidance. We now expect 2020 full-year adjusted EPS to be in a range of $4.21 to $4.38.

This range represents an adjusted diluted EPS growth rate of flat to 4% from a $4.21 base in 2019. Our guidance accounts for a range of scenarios. However, we're still facing a dynamic and quickly changing external environment, and we're monitoring ABI performance. Our first-half results were strong and reflected ABI's fourth and first-quarter results.

As we account for ABI's results on a one-quarter lag, we expect the year-over-year equity income comparisons to be more difficult in our second half. We also continue to monitor conditions for adult tobacco consumers, including unemployment rates, disposable income, and purchasing behaviors. These factors could be influenced by government decisions on future stimulus and unemployment benefit payments. Looking beyond 2020, we will continue to balance earnings growth with making appropriate investments in pursuit of our mission.

Our reestablished EPS guidance reflects a 2020 full-year adjusted effective tax rate expectation in a range of 24% to 26%. Our adjusted effective tax rate increased from 24% in the first quarter to 24.4% in the second quarter, primarily driven by reduced tax benefits as a result of ABI's dividend reduction in June. I'll now turn it over to Sal to provide more detail on our financial performance, our alcohol and cannabis assets, and capital allocation.

Sal Mancuso -- Chief Financial Officer

Thanks, Billy. Let me first provide some additional detail on the smokeable products segment. Segment adjusted OCI margins expanded 3.4 percentage points to 57.8% for the second quarter and 2.6 percentage points to 56.5% for the first half. We believe our strong top-line performance has been aided by our revenue growth management framework, which allows us to more efficiently and effectively deploy promotional resources.

We achieved strong net price realization of 6.4% in the second quarter and 7.7% for the first half. We're continuing to enhance our RGM toolkit and recently introduced manufacturer-supported off-invoice promotions for Marlboro in select states. This enhancement allows us to more efficiently support Marlboro in key geographies. In cigars, Middleton's reported volume increased 5.4% in the first half.

Black & Mild continues to be the leader in the profitable tipped cigar segment. Middleton is successfully navigating the FDA regulatory process with market orders covering over 90% of its current volume and plans to address the remaining volume with submissions prior to the September 9 deadline. In our oral tobacco products segment, Copenhagen continues to be the leading MST brand. And Copenhagen Packs is contributing to the brand's continued relevance with adult dippers through its satisfying combination of the two fastest-growing MST segments of wintergreen and pouch.

USSTC has expanded Copenhagen Packs into 20,000 stores across 36 states. Oral tobacco products segment adjusted OCI margins decreased 1.2 percentage points to 72.8% in the second quarter. Investments behind on! impacted adjusted OCI margins, which we expect to continue as we seek to expand its retail footprint and our manufacturing capacity. We remain pleased with the oral tobacco segment's strong adjusted OCI margin performance.

Turning to our alcohol assets. The COVID-19 pandemic negatively impacted our second-quarter results. In wine, Ste. Michelle continues to operate in a highly competitive category.

Adjusted OCI decreased 21.1% in the second quarter, driven primarily by lower on-premise and direct-to-consumer sales. Ste. Michelle has started a strategic reset to maximize profitability and improve long-term cash flows. In beer, we recorded $98 million of adjusted equity earnings in the second quarter, representing Altria's share of ABI's first-quarter 2020 results and a decrease of 43.4% from last year.

Turning to cannabis. In the second quarter, we recorded an adjusted loss of $17 million related to our Cronos investment, which primarily represents our share of Cronos' adjusted first-quarter 2020 results. Cronos is executing its strategy of developing disruptive intellectual property and building iconic brands. We believe Cronos is making progress in executing its asset-light strategy.

Recently, Cronos in partnership with Gingko Bioworks successfully produced one of their target cannabinoids using fermentation in an R&D test setting. This is an important step toward the company's goal of producing cannabinoids at large scale that can drive future cost efficiency and product consistency. Cronos remains a long-term strategic investment. We believe a legalized cannabis market in the U.S.

presents a tremendous growth opportunity. We reiterate the importance of an appropriate regulatory framework and intend to work with policymakers and regulators to create a responsible U.S. cannabis market. Turning to capital allocation.

We are pleased to announce that yesterday, our board declared the quarterly dividend ahead of our normally scheduled declaration date. The board declared a quarterly dividend of $0.86 per share, representing a new annualized dividend rate of $3.44 per share. This represents an increase of 2.4% from the previous annualized rate of $3.36 per share and marks the 55th dividend increase in the past 51 years. Our balance sheet is strong, and our core tobacco businesses continue to generate significant cash.

During the second quarter, we issued $2 billion of senior unsecured notes and paid back the $3 billion that we borrowed under our revolving credit agreement in March. At the end of the second quarter, we had $4.8 billion in cash on hand. And after making our dividend and income tax payments in July, our current cash balance is approximately $3 billion. We expect to continue to maintain a higher cash balance than normal to preserve financial flexibility.

Before Q&A, I'd like to provide some highlights on the progress we are making in our ESG efforts. In June, we published our 2019 Corporate Responsibility Progress Report, which is available on altria.com. For our environmental efforts, we've been systematically reducing our environmental footprint. And we're pleased with the Science Based Targets initiative's recent approval of the carbon-reduction goals we set for 2030.

Among other important ESG focus areas, we're committed to having a diverse board and management team that reflects the organizations they lead. More than half of our board members are women or ethnically diverse. As for the diversity of our management, as Billy shared earlier, we've set aiming points that we will be accountable for reaching. We continue to make ESG progress and look forward to sharing more as we advance in these efforts.

That concludes our remarks, and we'll be happy to take your questions. Operator, do we have any questions?

Questions & Answers:


Operator

Thank you. [Operator instructions] Our first question comes from Chris Growe with Stifel.

Chris Growe -- Stifel Financial Corp. -- Analyst

Hi. Good morning.

Billy Gifford -- Chief Executive Officer

Good morning, Chris.

Chris Growe -- Stifel Financial Corp. -- Analyst

Good morning. Thank you for the time. I wanted to ask you, first of all, as we think about your outlook for the cigarette category, which is obviously showing a marked improvement in relation to previous expectations, I'm just curious how we associate that outlook with your outlook for the consumer. So do you expect a weaker consumer picture in the second half? And did that inform your second-half outlook? And then as I think about what happened in the quarter, where Marlboro's share was flat sequentially and even discount share was down a little bit sequentially, do you expect those to reverse a bit or change a bit in the second half based on your outlook for volume?

Billy Gifford -- Chief Executive Officer

Yeah. Thanks for the questions, Chris. First, on volume, I think it's important to remember how fluid the environment is out there. In the second quarter, we didn't see a lot of pressure for the consumer to experience the need to down trade because we saw government stimulus and the unemployment benefits being paid by the government.

Now, we know that's in front of the government right now and they're considering it, but it's still somewhat of an unknown until they are able to pass something. And we certainly think if they do, it will benefit the adult tobacco consumer. From a standpoint of as we progress through the year, I think it's important to remember that comparisons for the first half were a bit easier comps than they will be in the second half. Remember, last year, the cigarette category peaked its decline at 6%, then it receded to 5.5% in the third and then down to 4.5% in the fourth.

So a little bit tougher comparisons were also included in that forecast, but it's a fluid environment and something that we'll continue to monitor. As far as Marlboro's share, your second question, we're very pleased with the way Marlboro performed in the marketplace in the second quarter. You mentioned sequentially it was flat. I think what you saw is that manufacturers responded to the COVID-19 pandemic differently.

We saw some of our competitive manufacturers discount across the entire brand portfolio of certain brands. But with our RGM tools, we felt like we could provide for the Marlboro consumer that was facing any economic hardship, a pretty safe landing by really discounting a portion of our Marlboro brand. And so with the RGM tools and with the sequential share, we're very pleased with how Marlboro performed from first to second quarter.

Chris Growe -- Stifel Financial Corp. -- Analyst

That's great. Thank you. And I had just one quick follow-up on IQOS and a question there on your marketing strategy. And I'm thinking about sort of as you ended the quarter, do you expect to expand the product once you have the approved marketing claims from the FDA? I know you're trying to get a new device, upgraded device, approved.

And do you expect this reduced exposure claim to be more prominently featured going forward in the marketing, again once it's approved by the FDA?

Billy Gifford -- Chief Executive Officer

Yeah. I think you touched on the two key points, Chris. One was the MRTP approval. And as I mentioned, we have to produce those assets and then get them approved -- or send them to the FDA 30 days ahead of using them in the marketplace.

I think the other that you mentioned was version 3, and that application has been filed with the FDA. And so we'll see how that progresses. I don't want to lead you to believe that we'll slow down and wait for that. But certainly, you can imagine putting your best foot forward in any new lead markets by having both the MRTP claim, as well as the version 3 with the enhancements that are there on version 3.

And I think as we move forward, we'll just have to balance that. And that's why for competitive reasons, we didn't mention the four markets, but we're also balancing how COVID is progressing in various states around the U.S. And so all of that will factor in as we make additional expansion decisions.

Chris Growe -- Stifel Financial Corp. -- Analyst

OK. Thank you very much. I appreciate your time.

Billy Gifford -- Chief Executive Officer

Thank you.

Operator

The next question comes from the line of Vivien Azer with Cowen.

Vivien Azer -- Cowen and Company -- Analyst

Thank you and good morning. Thank you so much for that incremental detail on your consumer demographics with on!, clearly very compelling in terms of the attractiveness of the proposition, both to cigarette smokers, as well as to women. I'm curious, Billy, as you kind of reflect on this early success, any takeaways if you juxtapose some of those consumer demographics relative to what you saw early days in the snus category or even in the e-cigarette category? Thanks.

Billy Gifford -- Chief Executive Officer

Yeah. Thanks for the question, Vivien. I think you're exactly right. Look, we're very excited.

Now to caveat that with this early on, and we're expanding as fast as we can, but we're very excited about the attraction it has to both smokers and dippers. And we want to make sure that we capitalize on that, as well as the attraction to the female consumer. I mentioned that in my remarks. But we believe it's the rectangular packaging has some to do with it to distinguish it from, if you will, traditional MST in the consumers' minds as they're making decisions, as well as the variety of strengths and flavors that we have.

And we think all of that plays into the consumer and our ability to disrupt them as they're making purchases in the marketplace, so we're moving as fast as we can on manufacturing capacity. So that's no longer a constraint as we progress into 2021 and remove that constraint in 2021 and then get it to the stores where we want it to be. And so we're extremely excited about what we've got in place with plans for on!.

Vivien Azer -- Cowen and Company -- Analyst

That's really helpful. Thank you. Just a follow-up on that. Is it fair to assume that with snus, that category over indexed to dippers relative to what you're seeing with on!?

Billy Gifford -- Chief Executive Officer

That is correct, Vivien. I think when you looked at it in the consumer's mind, at least what we heard qualitatively is that they saw that as in the traditional MST category both for the packaging, as well as having tobacco that you're putting in your mouth. I think the distinction with on! is that it's white, it's very discreet, variety of strengths and flavors, and it's more intriguing for what we're hearing from consumers in the marketplace.

Vivien Azer -- Cowen and Company -- Analyst

Got it. Thanks for that. And I'll just squeeze one last one in. In terms of your investment in Cronos, there's certainly some going chatter around potential regulatory change depending on the outcome of the election, of course.

But to the extent that the Democrats are able to take control of the Senate and the White House, it does set up for a potential for pretty meaningful change in terms of U.S. cannabis regulation. So I'd love to hear your thoughts on how the election as a potential catalyst would change your thinking on the Cronos investment. Thanks.

Billy Gifford -- Chief Executive Officer

Yes. So to be clear, we support federal legalization and regulation of cannabis. And to your point, look, we've been successful under both Republicans and Democrats. We support both through of G&A efforts.

And so it remains to be seen how the election will turn out. But we certainly support appropriate regulation because we believe it prevents underage use. It implements consistent regulatory controls and quality standards across the entire industry. And we really believe it advances the science and addresses social justice issues.

So that's why we think it's important under either a Republican or a Democratic administration to have the legalization so that the right regulatory framework is put in place in the U.S.

Vivien Azer -- Cowen and Company -- Analyst

Understood. Thanks very much.

Billy Gifford -- Chief Executive Officer

Thank you.

Operator

The next question comes from the line of Pamela Kaufman with Morgan Stanley.

Pamela Kaufman -- Morgan Stanley -- Analyst

Hi. Good morning.

Billy Gifford -- Chief Executive Officer

Good morning.

Pamela Kaufman -- Morgan Stanley -- Analyst

Can you talk about your full-year guidance? It implies a relatively wide range for back half earnings. And I guess can you touch on some of the drivers influencing that range? And what do you see as some of the factors needed to reinstate your mid-term earnings growth algorithm?

Billy Gifford -- Chief Executive Officer

Yes. I'll take them in reverse order, Pamela. I think on the midterm, look, we're in unprecedented times. As you see on the news, it changes daily with where hotspots are across the U.S.

And so we monitor that, but there's a lot of uncertainty around how things will stay open or shut down and how the consumer will be impacted, as well as the economic stimulus, whether there will be another version of that that passes through Congress and gets enacted. So there's a lot of uncertainty. That's why you see a bit of a broader range. And then I highlighted in the remarks, our equity investment in ABI.

They have a global exposure to the COVID-19 pandemic. They're doing a very good job of monitoring that and making changes as necessary but, again, on a much broader scale, on a global basis, having to respond to that. Those would be the major factors in the wider range and what we see as we go through the remainder of this year.

Pamela Kaufman -- Morgan Stanley -- Analyst

Great. And can you discuss how you're thinking about the relative contribution to improved industry cigarette volumes from higher stimulus and unemployment benefits versus more opportunity to smoke and the shift back from e-cigs? And does the performance this year influence your outlook for long-term industry volume declines?

Billy Gifford -- Chief Executive Officer

Yeah. I think you touched on the two major factors, Pamela. I think the first was the stimulus certainly benefited, as I mentioned, both the lower- and middle-income American. And included in that, of course, is our adult tobacco consumer.

So they certainly benefited from that, as well as the lower discretionary output for nontobacco items, less commuting, so less gas, less entertainment. So they had more discretionary income from not spending as much in that nontobacco discretionary space. I think the other factor that you mentioned was really related to the movement of consumers back to cigarettes from e-vapor as we saw the FDA regulation of banning flavors outside of tobacco and menthol in marketplace. And that consumer was faced with choices.

Now that tended to skew, as I said, older adult smokers. And we know older adult smokers tend to skew discount. It benefited the entire cigarette category, but certainly, it skewed to the discount side. And so when you think about that, it's a bit early on to tease out the exact impact from both of those, but that's something that we'll continue to monitor as we move forward.

Pamela Kaufman -- Morgan Stanley -- Analyst

Great. And just one last question. I guess how are you thinking about the implications to the industry from the upcoming presidential election and the likelihood of a potential federal excise tax increase? Obviously, that's something that's on investors' minds. And maybe you can just touch on how you managed the prior excise tax increase.

Billy Gifford -- Chief Executive Officer

Sure. I think if you look at it, certainly, both the federal government and state governments have racked up significant bills in their response to the COVID-19 pandemic. I think certainly, they will look for or turn to at the appropriate time on how to pay for those bills. And certainly, excise taxes could be part of that.

We have an extremely strong government affairs team that regularly engages on that. As far as whether it's Democratic or Republican, and I think if you look back in our history, we know how to successfully navigate both of those administrations. And so we feel like we have the right tools in place. We have a strong government affairs teams.

We support both sides of the aisle. And so we feel like we have the right tools in place and the right employee base to navigate that successfully.

Pamela Kaufman -- Morgan Stanley -- Analyst

Thank you.

Billy Gifford -- Chief Executive Officer

Thank you.

Operator

Next question comes from the line of Bonnie Herzog with Goldman Sachs.

Bonnie Herzog -- Goldman Sachs -- Analyst

Thank you. Good morning, everyone. I have a question on your guidance. First, could you tell us what is factored into your guidance this year in terms of the future stimulus package? Is that assumed? Basically, does your guidance assume the worst? I'm just trying to understand that.

And then second, I'd be curious to hear from you why you're not comfortable in reinstating your three-year guidance. I guess I'm a bit surprised since it seems like you guys have enough visibility to reestablish your EPS guidance and industry volume guidance this year. But as you look out over the long term, is there something changing with the resilience of this category that makes you unsure? So if you could just touch on that, I would appreciate it.

Billy Gifford -- Chief Executive Officer

Sure. I would agree with you wholeheartedly, Bonnie, that the category is resilient. And again, I'll take them in reverse order. The three-year guidance is just because the external environment is so fluid.

I mentioned earlier the stimulus and whether the stimulus continues or doesn't continue. I mentioned various hotspots popping up around the U.S. and how that could impact the consumer's ability to go out and get product. And then how it impacts their overall outlook on their economic situation will be a factor of both of those.

I think from the stimulus standpoint and its impact on guidance, look, we run a range of scenarios when we provide guidance. And so we factor in, if you will, worst case and best case. And we try to really provide guidance based on what we think is the right combination of those scenarios. And so that's why you see a bit wider guidance based on those as well, as I mentioned, the ABI.

And so we felt like we reestablished the appropriate guidance range.

Bonnie Herzog -- Goldman Sachs -- Analyst

OK. That's helpful. And then I also wanted to ask about your share. I do get a lot of questions from investors.

And so I'd be curious to hear from you how you guys are thinking about really your total cigarette retail share. It was 49% this quarter, which I think has been the lowest it's been for almost 10 years. So I'm curious to hear from your perspective if this is worrisome to you. And then what do you think have been some of the key drivers of this share loss? And then as we think about your guidance, does that imply year-over-year share losses will continue in the second half? Or is there something that you're implementing, and I'm thinking about the recent pricing actions, that may start to minimize some of the share losses?

Billy Gifford -- Chief Executive Officer

Yeah. I think it's important to remember, Bonnie, that the overall strategy we employ in the cigarette category is to maximize profitability over the long term while balancing investments in Marlboro and funding the future growth of our noncombustible portfolio. And so that's the overall strategy we have in cigarettes. As far as share, I mentioned earlier, we're very pleased with what we saw from first quarter to second quarter with Marlboro.

We're pleased with the increased profitability in the category, as you saw from the OCI, as well as the increased gross margin, if you will, in both Marlboro, as well as our branded discount offerings. We will compete in the branded discount. But profitability will be a major factor in the way we compete in that branded discount category. You'll remember, we're a premium-focused company.

We participate in branded discount, but it has to be at the right profitability. We're very pleased with where we're at from a share standpoint and especially on Marlboro. It's something that we monitor. Remember, when we look at the health of a brand, we really look across four factors.

Profitability is one. Share is one. It's the equity score, the equity strength of the brand, which is both, is it remaining popular and is it remaining relevant, meaning is it keeping pace with the consumer as they evolve. And then the final one of the four is demographics.

And we look at that at age cohorts of 10 years, starting at 21 and going up. And we're really looking to see if we're engaging appropriately across those age cohorts based on the overall share of the brand. So we feel good about Marlboro. But it's certainly something we'll monitor as we -- I mentioned the economic pressures that consumers could face potentially in the second half.

However, we have the right tools in place, and I think we've shown we know how to navigate that type of environment in these uncertain times.

Bonnie Herzog -- Goldman Sachs -- Analyst

That was really helpful, Billy, and I think it is important. I think it's quite impressive, too, the margin expansion that you've been showing, as you mentioned, and so it's really that balance. If I may just squeeze one last question in on IQOS and your agreement with Philip Morris. Curious why you felt it was important to share two of the milestones at this point.

I guess I'm asking because, historically, you've been quite guarded with providing a lot of details about your business. So for me, it raised maybe a bit of a question. And then second, the bar to achieve the milestone seems relatively low, given the time frame, even with COVID, everything going on this year. So wondering, really, what the incentives are to achieve greater market share from your perspective and how much you're willing to invest, especially if IQOS is margin-dilutive for you guys relative to your core cig business.

Just trying to understand how you're going to manage that. Thank you.

Billy Gifford -- Chief Executive Officer

Sure, sure. I appreciate the additional question, Bonnie. I think when you think about the disclosure, we thought it was good disclosure with where we're at and making progress against the expansion plans for IQOS. So we really felt it was important for the investor to know that term and so we disclosed that.

As you mentioned, we've been fairly quiet because we have cross-confidentiality in place with PMI on the detailed terms of the agreement, but we did feel like it was good disclosure as we continue to make progress against expanding IQOS in the lead markets. From a standpoint of how we're thinking about balancing, look, we're going to invest the appropriate dollars behind IQOS. We think it can be very successful in the U.S. If you look at the total length of time of the agreement that's currently in place, 10 years, 10 years is a long time, and so we're going to make the appropriate investments.

Certainly, we feel like we can meet the performance objectives and then thinking about that total 10-year runway based on the current agreement. So we feel excited about IQOS and the success it can have in the U.S.

Bonnie Herzog -- Goldman Sachs -- Analyst

Thank you.

Billy Gifford -- Chief Executive Officer

Thank you.

Operator

The next question comes from the line of Michael Lavery with Piper Sandler.

Michael Lavery -- Piper Sandler -- Analyst

Good morning. Thank you.

Billy Gifford -- Chief Executive Officer

Good morning, Michael.

Michael Lavery -- Piper Sandler -- Analyst

On ABI, you mentioned how the fair value is below carrying value but that you view that as temporary. And obviously, there's a hopefully onetime transitory environment with the pandemic. But can you just give a sense of how temporary is defined, and does it depend on a specific amount of time? Is it the nature of the issue that's weighing on that stock? And what, if anything, should we look for that might consider you to change your view on how to think about assessing that asset?

Sal Mancuso -- Chief Financial Officer

Good morning, Michael. This is Sal. You are correct. We have deemed the ABI impairment as a temporary item.

Look, we perform a detailed analysis as part of our closing process every quarter. You have seen recent recovery in the valuation of ABI. So we're going to continue to monitor it going forward. But under SEC guidance, we believe that this impairment is temporary, and it will recover to our book value for ABI, the ABI asset.

Michael Lavery -- Piper Sandler -- Analyst

OK. Thanks. That's helpful. And welcome, Sal.

Just on the margins in smokeable specifically, just would love a little sense of maybe some of the cost piece there. Your price/mix was very strong but at a little bit less than the roughly 8% pace over the previous five quarters. But your margin expansion was comparable to the five-quarter previously average of around 350 basis points. And so I guess the question is just if costs were a bigger driver, is there an acceleration of some of your cost savings initiatives? And should we expect those to continue into the second half or with some of that more onetime in nature for some reason?

Billy Gifford -- Chief Executive Officer

Yeah. Michael, I would just caution you to look at this short period of time and try to make comparisons. You have differences in timing of costs that occur through the year on any given quarter on a year-over-year basis. You're right.

The cadence of pricing can affect the margin expansion in any short-term period. I think if you step back from that and look at how we've been able to improve margin through time, it has been the levers you're referring to. It has been being very disciplined and very focused on reducing costs through time, as well as pricing. And pricing is really two components.

It's manufacturer list price, and it's the implementation of revenue growth management. And we really believe that revenue growth management has afforded us the opportunity to really look at the retail promotions we have in the marketplace, be much more efficient and much more precise in where we put those promotions in the marketplace. So when you step back and get out of a short-term period and really look at the three factors, it's really cost. It's pricing, but pricing is two different pieces.

It's manufacturer list price, as well as the revenue growth management we put in place.

Sal Mancuso -- Chief Financial Officer

And Michael, I will add the restructuring program that we implemented last year, the savings happened over the course of the year, more toward the back end of the year. So you are lapping that. But cost management is part of our ongoing management of the business. We take a very strategic approach.

And it is an important lever, as Billy just said, as we think about margins in our tobacco businesses.

Michael Lavery -- Piper Sandler -- Analyst

OK. Thank you. That's helpful. And then just last one on the IQOS rollout.

Thank you for the color on the kind of 18-month road map and your thinking there. Can you give us a sense of what, if anything, might accelerate that? Or how flexible are those plans? Could you move faster into more markets, or is this pretty well-set?

Billy Gifford -- Chief Executive Officer

No. I think that's what we wanted to mention to investors and analysts today. Certainly, we always look at what would allow us to move faster if we so desire based on the experience we're having in the marketplace. So we're prepared.

We are also balancing that, as I mentioned earlier, with the COVID-19 pandemic. That is in different areas in the U.S. at different rates of increase. And so all of that will factor into the speed with what we continue our expansion of IQOS.

Michael Lavery -- Piper Sandler -- Analyst

OK. That's great. Thank you very much.

Billy Gifford -- Chief Executive Officer

Thank you.

Operator

The next question comes from the line of Steve Powers with Deutsche Bank.

Steve Powers -- Deutsche Bank -- Analyst

Yes. Hey, guys. Good morning. Two quick ones for me.

Billy Gifford -- Chief Executive Officer

Good morning.

Steve Powers -- Deutsche Bank -- Analyst

So Billy, the first one is with respect to on!. The confirmation of your ability to hit that 50 million can capacity at the end of the year, I think, is a good thing just given the delays that were percolating. But apologies if I missed it, but could you talk about the timing of getting to 75 million, which I think originally was the end-of-year target? And should we think about that level as a ceiling for 2021 capacity? Or are there plans to increase further beyond that level?

Billy Gifford -- Chief Executive Officer

Yes. So certainly, the 50 million is what we stated for year-end. We also mentioned that we will remove capacity constraints in 2021. From a personal standpoint, Steve, I'm tired of being behind the curve.

So we're going to expand to stay ahead of that demand curve as we move forward. Remember, it's important, and I think sometimes, it's overlooked. We closed on this transaction 11 months ago, and when you look at what the employee base here at Altria has been able to achieve, it's quite remarkable. We're in 40,000 stores.

We've expanded manufacturing capacity. We now produce it out of our MC campus here in Richmond. We've filed 35 PMTAs with the FDA. We're starting the foundational work.

So we're moving very rapidly. But I'm with you, I don't like being behind the curve. I want to get ahead of it.

Steve Powers -- Deutsche Bank -- Analyst

OK. OK. And then, Sal, maybe Billy's desire to get ahead of the curve plays into this a bit. But as we think about that higher cash balance that you're carrying through this COVID period, can you frame your capital allocation priorities looking out once things, hopefully, normalize?

Sal Mancuso -- Chief Financial Officer

Yeah. Look, we think having a higher-than-normal cash balance during these unprecedented times is prudent and the right thing to do. But we are going to make the investments we need to make in our business, obviously. on! is an important product for our future.

And we're going to make the necessary capital investments. But we are a company that, fortunately, has a low level of capital expenditures overall, especially for a company of our size. And our capital expenditures tend to be at about the same level of depreciation for the year. When we think about capital allocation, if you remember, and we've talked about this in the past, after paying dividends and after investing in our business through capital expenditures, we generally have about $1 billion in excess cash.

And we run through a very detailed analysis and we think about the best capital allocation for our shareholders and the long-term health of our businesses.

Steve Powers -- Deutsche Bank -- Analyst

Understood. Thank you very much.

Sal Mancuso -- Chief Financial Officer

Thank you.

Operator

The next question comes from the line of Adam Spielman with Citi.

Adam Spielman -- Citi -- Analyst

Thank you very much. Good morning, everyone.

Billy Gifford -- Chief Executive Officer

Good morning, Adam.

Adam Spielman -- Citi -- Analyst

I'd like to ask two follow-up questions and then another one on the IQOS contract. So the first follow-up question is really on that on! capacity. And you said very clearly that you don't want to be behind the curve in terms of capacity in 2021, and I'm just wondering if you can be a little bit more specific about that. And particularly, as I think about it, you're going to start 2021 with capacity of 50 million cans a year, which, in my mind, is clearly not behind the curve.

And yet by the end of the year, you're presumably going to have massively more capacity. So I was wondering if you can be a little bit specific in terms of the sort of capacity, let's say, the run rate you'd hope to have at the end of 2021 and when the next big tranche of capacity is going to come on because 50 million evidently isn't enough, which is where you'll be at the beginning of 2021.

Billy Gifford -- Chief Executive Officer

Yeah. I appreciate the follow-up, Adam. What I really meant is I no longer want capacity to be a constraint of what we would like to do in the marketplace. And so I want to remove capacity from being a constraint, and that's specifically manufacturing capacity, so that we have the ability to produce the product we desire to have in the marketplace, in the stores where we want it and to be ahead of, if you will, of that curve of wanting to have the product in more stores and not the ability to produce it.

And so that's what I meant by being ahead of the curve.

Adam Spielman -- Citi -- Analyst

And so let's say in mid-2021, are we talking about 100 million capacity, 200 million? What sort of capacity will be required to remove that?

Billy Gifford -- Chief Executive Officer

The question on what you desire there, Adam, I'm going to refrain from going too far. I think the 50 million with the environment we're in is about as far as we want to go and just knowing that we're going to remove capacity constraints in 2021.

Adam Spielman -- Citi -- Analyst

OK. Thank you. OK. Can I turn now to the question about margins? And I just really want to understand the detail.

You obviously had a huge margin increase in 2Q. Now my understanding is there was some, and I may have got this wrong, was there some expenses you just couldn't make because of the situation with the pandemic. And so as we go forward, I guess, should we think of this as being a bit of a high watermark, and in the second half and the beginning of 2021, you'll be back to more regular marketing, more regular activities? Or should we think of this as a new level and you're going to build from this new level?

Billy Gifford -- Chief Executive Officer

Yeah. Again, Adam, I do appreciate the follow-up. And I'm not going to get into specifics about where this margin is and where we'll go. I think overall, you can consider us to think of we like increasing margins through time.

We really do that through -- as I mentioned earlier to Michael, we do that through cost reductions. And you're right. There are some expenses certainly in the second quarter related to COVID that wouldn't be able to be spent. But there are also additional expenses, and we highlighted those in our earnings release.

From a standpoint of the other levers, it's pricing. And around pricing, there's manufacturer list price, and the cadence of that year over year can affect margins in any given quarter but as well as the implementation of revenue growth management. And that's a piece, even though it shows up in pricing, it's more like a reduction in expense through time because what you're doing is you're being more precise, more efficient with the promotional resources you're putting in the marketplace with the ability to achieve like or better results. And so with the implementation of that, you can continue to expect us to get better with that modeling.

We're extremely pleased with where we're at, but we're never satisfied. And so the more data that goes through that model and the experience it gets, the sharper that tool becomes.

Adam Spielman -- Citi -- Analyst

OK. That's actually very helpful and, I think, meaningful answer. So can I turn to my third question? And this is about the new -- or the new details of the contracts you gave about IQOS. And you talk about you have to get to a 50-basis point value share.

And I think the phrase you used is specific geographic areas. And I was wondering, and maybe I'm just not familiar enough with the way you talk internally, but what does that mean? Would that be a specific state, or would it be specific metro area? Or would it be, let's say, a quarter of metro Atlanta? So how should we think about that, just that phrase, specific geographic area?

Billy Gifford -- Chief Executive Officer

Yeah. We thought it was important to disclose that term, as I mentioned earlier. With this cross-confidentiality we have in place, I'm going to refrain from going much deeper in describing each of those items. Look, without mentioning whether we've met it or haven't met it, just to share a data point with you, Adam.

In the Atlanta market, we have 0.6% share of the cigarette category in stores selling IQOS, and so that's where we were at the end of the second quarter. But that's just sharing a data point as a point of reference. And again, we'll be sure to disclose as we move forward our progress against meeting the financial objectives.

Adam Spielman -- Citi -- Analyst

But if you think about it from my point of view, I mean, just to be clear, it's not really possible to tell whether that phrase, specific geographic area, is a state, a metro area or something smaller, let's say, a county.

Billy Gifford -- Chief Executive Officer

I agree with that, and I understand the question you're asking. I'm just going to refrain from going deeper. I think that was good disclosure for our investor base.

Adam Spielman -- Citi -- Analyst

OK. Thank you very much.

Billy Gifford -- Chief Executive Officer

Thank you, Adam.

Operator

The next question comes from the line of Gaurav Jain with Barclays.

Gaurav Jain -- Barclays Investment Bank -- Analyst

Hi. Good morning. So I have three questions. So the first question is on the bill, SB 793, in California.

So there is a flavor ban that happens in California. Could you just talk about how it will impact the different categories that you have, cigarettes, cigars, smokeless, oral nicotine pouches, and what might be the offsets in terms of...

Billy Gifford -- Chief Executive Officer

Yeah. I think it's important. Look, we think that the FDA is the entity best situated to make decisions on flavors. All of the products that you mentioned will either go through the FDA or have been through the FDA from a scientific basis and they'll make those decisions based on science and evidence.

Specific to that bill, I think it's important to remember in the cigarette category, menthol overall tends to under-index in California. And of course, we tend to under-index into menthol in the cigarette category. I think when you get to the other categories, you can think about the -- in California, in the traditional MST space, somewhere around equal share, nothing really to mention as far as over indexing or under indexing. And then in the alternative space, as I mentioned, all of those products will be in front of the FDA here shortly.

Gaurav Jain -- Barclays Investment Bank -- Analyst

Sure. My second question is on the oral tobacco category. So thanks for sharing that slide, where you mentioned that 37% of on! users are smokers. Of the other 63%, is it possible to disaggregate into users coming from moist snuff, e-cigarettes and what are the new consumers coming into the product?

Billy Gifford -- Chief Executive Officer

It is possible. We wanted to share what we saw from exclusive smokers just because of the opportunity that presents. We'll consider whether we go into the other detail of the other categories in the future, but we haven't thus far.

Gaurav Jain -- Barclays Investment Bank -- Analyst

Sure. That's very helpful. And my last question is on the e-cigarette category. So we will have the first indications from the Youth Tobacco Survey over the next three months if prior years are a guide.

Now that might be delayed because of COVID, but what do you think you will see with respect to youth access trends? And do you think that will impact JUUL's PMTA, or will it be the 2021 Youth Tobacco Survey that will be more relevant?

Billy Gifford -- Chief Executive Officer

Yeah. I think it remains to be seen what we'll see, certainly, if you consider what's taking place in the external environment. Remember, JUUL voluntarily started pulling flavors well before the actual FDA ban came in place. And so we actually saw their share go down slightly.

Now that there's more of an even playing field, if you will, across all manufacturers, we've seen JUUL recapture some of that share. I think that as well as even the COVID-19 pandemic with underage use being out of school, remember, social access was where we saw the biggest access for underage use to have access to these types of products. And what I mean by that is if I'm 18 in high school and you're 17, there would be more chance for me to buy it for you. And so that's why we and JUUL, also independent of us, supported the minimum age to purchase of 21 across the U.S.

And so that was passed federally at the end of last year and has made steady progress in being passed in the state. And our government affairs team is really engaged in those states that haven't passed it yet. So I think all of those factors should certainly have an impact on underage use. There's always more to be done.

And we believe no underage consumer should have access or use any type of nicotine-containing product.

Gaurav Jain -- Barclays Investment Bank -- Analyst

That's very helpful. Thank you.

Billy Gifford -- Chief Executive Officer

Thank you.

Operator

The next question comes from the line of Owen Bennett with Jefferies.

Owen Bennett -- Jefferies -- Analyst

Good morning.

Billy Gifford -- Chief Executive Officer

Good morning, Owen.

Owen Bennett -- Jefferies -- Analyst

Yeah. Just the one for me, coming back to the 0.5% IQOS dollar share. So it obviously doesn't seem that challenging. Especially, you talked about the excitement around possible success.

And you gave those Atlanta data points there. Could you perhaps be a bit more specific in terms of what you think is a realistic ambition for dollar share in those specific geographies over the next 18 months to two years? And if you can't answer that, as I'm guessing you may not be able to, your main competitor continues to say heated tobacco won't be successful in the U.S. I was just curious to see kind of what makes you guys so confident that it will be a success. Thank you.

Billy Gifford -- Chief Executive Officer

Yeah. I appreciate the questions, Owen. And you're right. On the first one, I'm going to refrain from going into detail where we would project share to be.

I think why we think heated tobacco will be a success in the U.S. is really related to -- if you go back to the cigarette consumer, so somewhere roughly half to slightly over half of those consumers have shown and expressed desire to move to a potentially reduced harm product. And a lot of those consumers went over and tried the various forms of e-vapor and rejected it. And so we believe heated tobacco really fits if you allow me to put combustible or conventional cigarettes on one end of a scale and e-vapor on the other.

With the IQOS experience, I would put it closer to cigarettes from a consumer experience base. They get satisfaction. The HeatStick, as you're well aware, is what goes into mouth, even though you have a device. So the mouthfeel is very similar.

You're inhaling the product. So we think because a large group of those conventional cigarette consumers who tried e-vapor and rejected it, that that is a great category for IQOS to satisfy what they're looking for.

Owen Bennett -- Jefferies -- Analyst

Well, thank you very much. Appreciate it.

Billy Gifford -- Chief Executive Officer

Thank you.

Operator

We have a question from Robert Rampton with UBS.

Robert Rampton -- UBS -- Analyst

Good morning. Three questions for me, the first, as you previously mentioned, that you secured state excise tax breaks if IQOS were to receive MRTP status. Does that still hold for the reduced exposure certification you've received? And what's your outlook for further state tax breaks?

Billy Gifford -- Chief Executive Officer

Yeah, you're exactly right. Some of those were secured. Now it differs by state. So some states have one rate for reduced risk and a different rate for reduced exposure.

Some incorporate both at a similar rate. So it differs by state. As far as outlook, our government affairs team, and I had mentioned the strength of the government affairs team, they were able to secure most of those without that type of product having approval from the FDA in the marketplace. So now that you see that we have some, I think as far as the conversation goes with the various state legislatures, it will be a very fruitful conversation.

And we believe excise taxes should not be a deterrent for consumers' desire to move down the continuum of risk. And so I think we'll see more conversations take place, and I won't put a prediction on the outcome.

Robert Rampton -- UBS -- Analyst

And just apologies, to follow-up on that, you mentioned at one point, I think it was four states. Is that still the number, or has any been added since?

Billy Gifford -- Chief Executive Officer

Yeah. I will actually have IR -- because it does change period to period, I don't have handy off the top of my head how many states. It is either four or five. But I will make sure IR follows up with you.

Robert Rampton -- UBS -- Analyst

Great. Thank you very much. And then my next question is -- so looking at 2019 pricing increases in net revenue and retail price per stick, it's quite elevated. But in hindsight, should we view that year as kind of a one-off elevated level and things should be more historic normal going forward?

Billy Gifford -- Chief Executive Officer

Yeah. I'll be careful not to talk about future pricing or price realization. I wouldn't read anything into any one particular year of exactly how we're going to think about it going forward. I think when you step back from the specifics and think about pricing in general, we know pricing is an important part of our algorithm.

We balance that with the, if you will, the overall strategy of maximizing profitability through time, cost reductions that we're able to achieve, as well as how we feel the consumers' economic outlook is and what they're facing. And so we balance all of that on a year-to-year basis and throughout any given year, and that's how we make pricing decisions.

Robert Rampton -- UBS -- Analyst

All right, very clear. Thank you very much.

Billy Gifford -- Chief Executive Officer

And Robert, it was five states. Sal was able to look that up.

Robert Rampton -- UBS -- Analyst

Five.

Billy Gifford -- Chief Executive Officer

It was five states.

Operator

Thank you. At this time, I would like to turn the call back over to management for closing comments.

Billy Gifford -- Chief Executive Officer

Well, thanks very much for joining us. Look, the tobacco category continues to evolve. But Altria's core tobacco businesses have a track record of delivering strong and consistent financial performance in challenging environments. We continue to reward our shareholders by returning a significant amount of cash in the form of dividends.

We believe our noncombustible platform has the winning brands and is unmatched, and we're excited to continue to make progress in achieving our vision of responsibly transitioning adult smokers to a noncombustible future. Thank you again for joining us and stay healthy.

Duration: 74 minutes

Call participants:

Mac Livingston -- Vice President of Investor Relations

Billy Gifford -- Chief Executive Officer

Sal Mancuso -- Chief Financial Officer

Chris Growe -- Stifel Financial Corp. -- Analyst

Vivien Azer -- Cowen and Company -- Analyst

Pamela Kaufman -- Morgan Stanley -- Analyst

Bonnie Herzog -- Goldman Sachs -- Analyst

Michael Lavery -- Piper Sandler -- Analyst

Steve Powers -- Deutsche Bank -- Analyst

Adam Spielman -- Citi -- Analyst

Gaurav Jain -- Barclays Investment Bank -- Analyst

Owen Bennett -- Jefferies -- Analyst

Robert Rampton -- UBS -- Analyst

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