They are still controversial, but tobacco stocks are also favorites of investors looking for a combination of defensive positioning and stout dividends. Some of the largest tobacco stocks, such as Altria Group Inc. (MO) and Phillip Morris International (PM) sport hefty market values, meaning they are important parts of some well-known consumer staples exchange traded funds (ETFs).

February is a big month for tobacco earnings with four of the largest tobacco stocks delivering quarterly reports. Altria steps into the earnings confessional today, with Wall Street expecting earnings per share (EPS) of $0.67 on sales of $4.8 billion. Phillip Morris reports on Thursday with estimates currently residing at EPS of $1.12 on sales of $6.67 billion. Reynolds American (RAI) delivers results on Feb. 9 with analysts expecting that tobacco giant to report first-quarter EPS of $0.60 on revenue of $3.16 billion.

ETF investors looking for tobacco exposure are likely to turn to traditional ETFs, such as the Consumer Staples Select Sector SPDR (XLP) and that is a fine idea. XLP, the largest consumer staples ETF by assets, allocates nearly 18% of its weight to tobacco stocks, making controversial cigarette makers XLP's fourth-largest industry weight. Phillip Morris and Altria are XLP's third- and fourth-largest holdings, respectively, combining for nearly 15% of the ETF's weight.

Investors looking to add a little flair to their staples ETF choices can consider the John Hancock Multifactor Consumer Staples ETF (JHMS). As its name implies, JHMS is not a cap-weighted ETF like XLP. Rather, JHMS uses several well-known investment factors, such as smaller market caps, lower relative prices and sturdy profitability to build its lineup. JHMS allocates almost 12 percent of its lineup to tobacco stocks, which is one of the higher allocations among smart beta consumer staples ETFs.

The PowerShares DWA Consumer Staples Momentum Portfolio (PSL) is another alternative as it features Altria as its largest holding at a weight of 5.1%. PSL tracks an index that “is designed to identify companies that are showing relative strength (momentum), and is composed of at least 30 common stocks from the NASDAQ US Benchmark Index,” according to PowerShares.

Translation: PSL is a smart beta ETF and although it adheres to a momentum-based strategy, the resulting portfolio has an average market value of just under $24 billion. That is low compared to traditional consumer staples ETFs and that is a data point that implies PSL is an ETF that can perform well when smaller growth stocks are in favor with investors.

The other side of that coin is PSL can lag when larger, defensive stocks are in favor, which happened last year when PSL posted a negative return even as XLP climbed 5%.

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