It’s not often you read a blackmail letter written by the CEO of a major company on the front pages of the Daily Telegraph, Herald Sun and Adelaide Advertiser. But that’s what happened today.

David Crow, managing director of British American Tobacco Australia, delivered this threat to the Australian government: if you persevere with your plan to replace all branding on cigarette packets with a green colour and only the name of the cigarette and a graphic health warning, we will flood the Australian marketplace with half-price cigarettes.

“It’s going to backfire and go bad and lead to more people smoking, which is just mad if you’re sitting at a government desk,” Crow’s blackmail threat continued, and that “basically means more people will smoke, more kids will smoke.”

And by the way, the threats continued, we’re also going to fight to protect our brand names and demand billions of dollars in compensation if you go ahead with the plain-packaging plan. “Guys like us are going to defend our trademark … if they lose it [the legal battle], which we think they will, they’ll have to pay compensation and that’s billions of dollars — and that’s not a smart use of taxpayers’ money.”

As the war on smoking in developed countries reaches a critical stage for tobacco companies — and as the Australian government leads that global campaign with ground-breaking prohibitions — no one should be surprised when those companies ramp up their tactics to a desperate level.

But Crow should realise that blackmail, as well as smoking, can be dangerous to your health.