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In stark contrast to my previous article on socially responsible and green exchange-traded investment vehicles, the accompanying table (click to enlarge) presents the Top 10 companies by market cap and statistics for the ETF Innovators (ETFI) Global Tobacco Index, which easily outpaced the overall market and benchmark ETFs over the last year.

The Top 25 Rated companies managed to post a gain of 1.5% on a total return basis in the past year, thanks to an average dividend yield of 6.3%. All benchmark ETFs posted losses over the past year on a total return basis, including Consumer Staples SPDR (NYSEARCA:XLP) (-17.5%), Claymore/Sabrient Defensive Equity Index (NYSEARCA:DEF) (-31.5%), Vanguard Consumer Staples (NYSEARCA:VDC) (-17.3%), and iShares Dow Jones Select Dividend (NYSEARCA:DVY) (-34%).

The Top 10 companies by market cap will be getting smaller as Altria (NYSE:MO) is set to close on its acquisition of smokeless tobacco maker UST Inc. (NYSEARCA:UST) early next year. Companies yielding over 5% among the Top 10 largest include Philip Morris International (NYSE:PM), British American Tobacco (NYSEMKT:BTI), Altria, Reynolds American (NYSE:RAI), and Lorillard (NYSE:LO).

A new Global Tobacco ETF would provide investors with a defensive, high dividend yield option which generates consistent returns regardless of the overall market conditions. With the market turmoil over the past year, the Top 25 tobacco stocks posted a gain on a total return basis compared to double digit losses in benchmark defensive and consumer staples ETFs.