'Cigarettes could soon be sold under the counter, just like X-rated magazines once were,' revealed the Daily Star, reporting on Department of Health plans.

There are fears the scheme "could backfire by glamorising tobacco among the young", reported the Daily Mail .

"The latest absurd proposal from health minister Dawn Primarolo is more about obsessive interfering than protecting public health," complained the paper's leader.

Newshounds returned to a favourite topic - superbugs, the subject of a lengthy feature in The Sunday Times magazine.

"Microbiologists who have remained in the NHS are dismayed that their warnings of disaster from antibiotic resistance have been ignored by hospital managers focused on performance indicators and productivity targets, which concentrate on waiting times," it said.

Meanwhile, The Times had received "a flood of letters" from readers who felt patronised by the use of their first names by hospital staff.

Dr Hamish Meldrum, chairman of the British Medical Association, said: "You will get a wee young girl addressing a man of 90 by his first name, not recognising that he is clearly uncomfortable with that."

And an intriguing tale from Hawaii, where a hospital visitor made the most of a rule allowing pets to pop in - and took along a horse. "The stallion and well wisher made it up to the third floor of Wilcox Memorial Hospital in a lift before being told the policy applied only to cats and dogs," reports The Independent . "Worse, the patient's response was: 'That's not my horse.'"