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.