My friend groaned. 'The worst one is the blackened teeth - ugh!' she said, as she lit up another cigarette. 'I really don't like that.' Her disgust was directed not at the cancerous stick in her mouth, but at the graphic pictures now required by law on all cigarette packets sold in Thailand. The pictures show the health risks associated with tobacco: diseased lungs, stained teeth, a skull floating in a smoke ring. It is hard to miss them as they cover half the packet, distracting smokers from the brand name that companies spend billions to promote. Although my friend finds them off-putting, other Bangkokians have taken enthusiastically to the new packets, even asking for certain pictures that allow them to flaunt their risky habit. Smokers rushed to collect the set of six pictures and muse over their favourites. That is not exactly the response that the Ministry of Public Health wanted. When it launched its anti-smoking campaign in March, officials predicted that the gruesome pictures would deter Thai smokers who ignored written health warnings: a picture is worth 1,000 words. It is probably too early to measure the impact the scheme will have on Thailand's 10.6 million smokers. Judging by my chain-smoking friends, photos of tobacco-sickened patients do not seem to be working. This is not the only plan under way in Thailand to lead smokers away from the weed, though. In recent years, Bangkok's non-smokers (among whom I count myself) have been treated to smoke-free restaurants, railway stations and other public places. Cigarette adverts have also been banished from magazines and television, and schools and universities have adopted smoke-free policies with varying degrees of success. The government's latest wheeze - if you forgive the pun - is even more drastic. Starting tomorrow, Thais will not be able to waltz into a shop and point to their favourite packet of smokes. Instead, cigarettes will be taken off the shelves behind the counter and placed out of sight. You can still buy them, but you have to ask for them first. Shop owners are not too happy to see a clampdown on such a fast-moving item, while tobacco companies see the space available to promote their brands being shrunk further. The new rules mean that it is easier to find porn magazines on display in Bangkok than a pack of cigarettes. In fact, the drive to take tobacco off the shelves is reminiscent of the policy adopted by newsagents in the UK, where pornography is stacked on the top display shelf, far from the reach of curious children. Out of sight, out of mind.