Air pollution causes the premature death of around 4,000 Londoners each year by contributing to things like heart disease and strokes — a number that's thought to be rising — and creates problems for many other sufferers of asthma and respiratory problems. The Breathe Better Together campaign wants to make us think about the actions we take on bad air days: by avoiding busy roads we can drastically reduce our exposure, for example, and drivers will be encouraged to switch off their engines while stationary for long periods. There'll also be more publicity for airTEXT, a service that forecasts what London's air pollution is expected to be like for the next few days.
Boris Johnson said:
"This is about promoting small simple steps we can all make to help improve air quality, protect ourselves from pollutants and indeed breathe better together... I’m confident the Ultra-Low Emission Zone and the strict tightening of our emission standards will help dramatically improve air quality and lower NO2 across the city."
Opposition groups in the London Assembly are pointing out — and quite rightly — that City Hall's approach is focusing on the wrong thing. Labour's Murad Qureshi, a veteran campaigner on air pollution, was withering:
"Today’s air quality campaign launch is over a year later than promised and amounts to one phrase on repeat — 'Hold Your Breath!'"
The Green Party's Jenny Jones wants to see more action taken, including using Transport for London's public information network and regional weather reports to get warnings out during high pollution episodes, as well as restricting non-essential vehicle journeys when the air gets really bad. She said:
"The Breath Better campaign is really disappointing and inadequate compared to the scale of London's air pollution challenge. It appears to be about advising the victims of air pollution rather than the polluters. The Mayor's small, simple steps fail to properly include action to be taken by drivers who cause the pollution in the first place."
There's a video to accompany the tube posters, radio slots and social media. See if you can spot where the Mayor gets himself in on the action...