One year on from the introduction of the English smoking ban, it is striking how much difference it has made to the nation's social habits.

I went clubbing last weekend for the first time in about 100 years and as I stood holding an overpriced vodka and cranberry listening to music I am too past it to recognise, it struck me something felt not quite right.

Most of the ingredients were in place: hordes of young people who did not look old enough to vote, check; vast amounts of alcohol being consumed, check; same young people getting off with each other, check.

But still something seemed out of place. It took me a minute or two to realise it was because no one was smoking - they had to go outside to do so, of course. I went home knackered but happily with my clothes a smoke-free zone.

Contrast this with my experience in Barcelona a few months back and a Greek island last week. Neither Spain nor Greece has banned smoking in bars and restaurants and golly, can you tell the difference. Everybody seemed to be smoking - male, female, old and young. I'm sure I even saw a baby at it.

Smoking still seems to be ingrained in the culture of both countries. When waiters or bar tenders have a five-minute break between customers, they light up. Shop assistants smoke at the counter. The packets had printed messages on them which I assume correspond to the "smoking kills" slogans here (I don't read Greek), but no one seemed to be taking any notice.

One evening we watched, fascinated, as a guitarist playing traditional music in a bar left a cigarette burning in an ashtray while he played a bouzouki, grabbing a quick puff when his guitar-playing colleague gave him a break from playing. I could not work out whether this was a deliberate ploy to stop himself from smoking too much or if he was just determined to get through a pack of 20 as quickly as possible.

Greek smoking habits are all the more fascinating when contrasted with their drinking habits. Greeks have that continental knack of the whole family or a group of friends gathering in a bar and having one drink each all evening - a habit I fear beer-loving Brits are never going to mimic.