True, Philip Morris International (NYSE:PM) is no smoking-hot growth name, but the global tobacco behemoth's recently reported quarter proves that it's still the place to be for investors who crave long-term stability.

As the company previously forecast, the strong dollar weighed on earnings. Excluding that pesky currency effect, Big Phil's 6.3% year-over-year earnings decline would've been an impressive 12.7% gain. Moreover, shipment volumes -- flat from the year-ago period -- show that customers continue to light up at the same rate during the recession. Given that former parent company Altria Group (NYSE:MO) posted a 14.2% -- or 5.7% adjusted -- decline in first-quarter 2009 domestic cigarette shipments, investors who favored the globe-trotting Philip Morris have plenty of cause for satisfaction.

Still, it's not outlandish to wonder whether smokers will flock to cheaper brands offered by competitor British American Tobacco (NYSE:BTI) as the recession wears on. Addressing that very issue on the conference call, management commented that "while unit volume may be somewhat softer than ... earlier expectations," it is confident that "[if] this shortfall should occur [it] will be more than offset by the benefit of pricing." In fact, price hikes completed in the quarter set a company record. Over time, I'd like to see the company achieve gains on both volume and pricing, but given the low risk of an absolute collapse in the customer base, that's an expectation that I'm comfortable tabling during this global consumer slog.

Finally, while Philip Morris International sees isolated headwinds resulting from an upcoming tax increase in the Ukraine, the company's regulatory risk is small potatoes compared to its domestic brethren Vector Group (NYSE:VGR), Lorillard (NYSE:LO), and Reynolds American (NYSE:RAI). Commenting on the fate of these companies, credit rating agency Fitch estimates that the combination of higher U.S. taxes and product prices could mean 2009 volume declines that wind their way up into the double digits.

For those who have no qualms about investing in Big Cigs, Philip Morris International looks to have many of the advantages of a domestic producer -- including a 5.8% dividend -- with less downside risk.

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Fool contributor Mike Pienciak does not hold shares in any company mentioned. The Fool has a disclosure policy. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days.