As an investor, it doesn't pay to follow the crowd.

In this series, though, we highlight a possible exception -- the collective wisdom of our CAPS community. Read the next section if you're unfamiliar with our methodology. Skip it if you want to go straight to the results.

Why this crowd is different
Jumping into a stock because your rich neighbor did, or because you heard about it from your friend's uncle who used to work on Wall Street, or because CNBC has been talking about it nonstop is a recipe for disaster.

If there's one thing I've learned as a stock analyst, it's that any stock can be gussied up to sound like a world-beater. If there's a second thing I've learned, it's that being a smart person doesn't make you a good investor.

In the hands of a smart person with good communication skills, the never-were and never-will-be stocks sound like tickets to instant fortune. The ancient Greek philosophers made the distinction between rhetoric and knowledge. The former is convincing; the latter is true.

That's why we factor in track record in our Motley Fool CAPS community. We invite everyone to give stocks an outperform (akin to a "buy" call) or underperform rating (akin to a "sell" call) in CAPS. We then use those opinions to calculate a rating for each stock -- from one to five stars (five being the best). But -- and this is a big distinction -- we give more weight to the opinions of folks whose picks have performed well in the past.

The most popular tobacco high yielder
With that methodology as prelude, I present to you the top four- and five-star-rated tobacco stocks that yield 3% or more that have garnered the most outperform ratings by CAPS members. I used a minimum market capitalization of $100 million and the proviso that it must be listed on a major U.S. exchange. Remember, stocks are rated on a five-star scale by our CAPS community, so four- and five-star stocks are consensus outperforms.

Company Name

 Market Capitalization (in millions)

P/E Ratio

Dividend Yield

CAPS Rating (out of 5)

Outperform Picks

Altria (NYSE: MO)

$46,514

13.4

6.8%

****

8,186

Philip Morris International (NYSE: PM)

$94,136

13.9

4.5%

*****

2,271

Reynolds American (NYSE: RAI)

$15,900

15.9

6.6%

****

490

British American Tobacco (NYSE: BTI)

$68,802

19

3.1%

****

233

Lorillard (NYSE: LO)

$11,532

12.3

5.9%

****

223

Source: Motley Fool CAPS.

I can't disagree with these ratings. I've highlighted both Altria and Philip Morris in our 11 O'Clock Stock series (check in at Fool.com each day at 11 a.m. as we pick 50 stocks in 50 days). Read those write-ups here and here. Folks looking to open up a new position may want to wait for some slightly lower stock prices on each, but the two purveyors of Marlboro pack a great domestic and international punch.

Which is your favorite tobacco stock? Make your thoughts known in CAPS by clicking here. Or just go there to do further research on one of these stocks.

Anand Chokkavelu owns shares of Philip Morris International and Altria. Philip Morris International is a Motley Fool Global Gains pick. The Fool owns shares of Philip Morris International and Altria. True to its name, The Motley Fool is made up of a motley assortment of writers and analysts, each with a unique perspective; sometimes we agree, sometimes we disagree, but we all believe in the power of learning from each other through our Foolish community. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.