Perceptions of the sugar-sweetened beverage tax amongst tertiary accounting students in South Africa: a comparative study

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An excise tax on sugar-sweetened beverages to reduce excessive sugar consumption in South Africa came into effect on 1 April 2018. This study aimed to investigate perceptions of a limited sample of South Africans regarding the sugar-sweetened beverages tax based on certain economic factors, and whether participants perceived any likely benefit from the tax. These perceptions were compared with perceptions identified in selected foreign jurisdictions that have levied such a tax. A survey questionnaire was selected as the primary method of data collection. This questionnaire was administered to post-graduate Accounting students, aged twenty-one years and older, studying at three residential universities in South Africa. An extensive analysis of literature available on sugar-sweetened beverage taxes, both locally and internationally, was conducted. The two main constructs (construct 1: perception of the sugar-sweetened beverage tax and the price of sugar-sweetened beverages and construct 2: the social impact of the sugar-sweetened beverage tax) were analyzed using descriptive statistics. This study found that there is a significant association between gender and perception that the sugary beverage levy will be beneficial to health, with female perceptions of the benefit of the sugary beverage levy being greater than that of males. The study found that perception of the sugar-sweetened beverage tax may depend on several factors, closely linked to individual beliefs and cultures, and thus different populations may have different perceptions of the tax. The findings about sugar-sweetened beverage consumption trends across gender, ethnicities and physical activity groups can help guide targeted strategies to reduce consumption.

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    • Figure 1. Research Model: Factors influencing a postgraduate students’ perceptions of the Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Tax in South Africa
    • Table 1. Summary of impact of the sugar-sweetened beverage tax in other countries
    • Table 2. Summary of the theoretical framework
    • Table 3. Mean score of 14 items used to measure the perception of respondents of the sugary beverage levy and the price of sugar-sweetened beverages
    • Table 4. Mean score of 11 items used to measure the social impact of the Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Tax