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Smoke and mirror bot accounts driving 80% of vaping and tobacco tweets

Smoke and mirrors account for 80% of Twitter vaping & tobacco marketing

Automated social media accounts have been found responsible for the lion's share of marketing missives concerning vaping and e-cigarettes on Twitter, according to a new study.

Analysis by the Nicholson Foundation found that such ghost accounts accounted for close to 80% of all Twitter conversations concerning vaping and tobacco. Much of the traffic was exposed to underage members.

Detailed analysis of the content found most bots were focused on peddling misinformation about e-cigarettes, undermining official pronouncements from public health bodies and scientists.

Raquel Mazon Jeffers, head of research on population health at The Nicholson Foundation, said: “These are really persistent marketing techniques that are misinformed or are spreading misinformation, and it seems to be fueling a new generation of nicotine addicts in youth.”

E-cigarette usage has exploded in recent years among teenagers, jumping from a 1.5% share in 2011 to 20.8% in 2018, leaving health experts scrabbling to establish the potential health risks.

The report follows an FDA warning that tobacco companies have been illegally marketing properties to children.

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